The fire was proving difficult to catch. No matter what I tried nothing worked. It had started out well enough, a good blaze ensued from the dry kindling and I kneeled in front of the little stove and took heart from the light it threw about the room. The day was horrendous. Winds whistled around the house and the driveway formed mini oceans and the poor little tits hanging from the feeders were surely dizzy from their attempt to eat the tasty nuts I put there for them. A fire was essential to ward off the darkness.
And H is no man for a fire. That's the downside of being reared in a place where fires are only for ornamental purposes. I mean it is the most romantic pursuit to gather driftwood from the beach and bring it home to light a fire. A small little token, not essential but still a crucial ingredient to the ambience of an evening in Monterey. We often did that on our visits to his Mother's house and I always wondered at the way the wood caught, so effortless it was, so eager to add to the interesting conversations we got into on those foggy nights with the seals off in the distance distracting me from the crackle of old wood.
But those days are gone now. My mother-in-law, my dearest Jane has passed on and we will never sit beside her driftwood fire again. And my own childhood fires, the ones I remember with fondness will never again occur. The year my mother bought a toasting fork, a long utensil that one could lengthen if need be or shorten if the flames were too high. Toast, slightly burned with melting butter. Simple but delicious and sometimes we had marshmallows, as a treat, melting onto our tongues like silk.
The fire can loosen a tongue. Make it express oneself, utter something lost within, make it rise up from the dark corners of the soul. Confess a longing. A fear. A conflict. But it can also stir the soul into meditation and depth and allow an introspection to occur and when you have a dog beside you well all the better because the dog knows about these things.
And so I cursed the down draught and I opened the door to the small black stove, I threw in some wrinkled up old holly, I heaved the old bellows into my hands and pushed the handles in and out, I said a small prayer too. I prayed for the memory of Jane in her house in Monterey, I prayed for my mother and how she told me as a child that if I looked into the fire that I would see stories emerge and I prayed for our little house and the fire that suddenly caught like something magical, really, it did, as if all you need is an ounce of faith to believe that something will take flight. When a small dying fire becomes something to ward off the encroaching night and carries me away to another place it is something to be thankful for. That and only that.