Stoking The Fire

My lovely fireplace.
My lovely fireplace.

The crackling logs in my fireplace are so beautiful with the dancing flames on top.  I like sitting in front of the fire and staring into it, being lulled by its warmth, its noise and even its smell.

I’m constantly fiddling with the fire:  poking the logs with a poker, scraping them and moving them around with a small shovel and then rocking the logs back and forth with the poker to fuel the flames up the flue.  Then, I sit back down and stare into the fire.  It’s a constant dance of relaxation and nervous energy for me.  My dog and cat are immune to my intrigue of this novelty in my new home.  The dog sleeps on the couch and stretches his little legs and the cat sleeps in the recliner and yawns a lazy sigh before curling up into a little ball again.

This image wasn’t so Norman Rockwell-esque the first time I tried to start a fire last weekend.  The fire was a bust.  I didn’t have the proper kindling or starter log.  I spent 2 exhausting, frustrating hours weaving newspapers in between, on top of, and underneath the logs and setting the kindling on fire with the extended hand-lighter and later a series of long kitchen matches.  I had properly opened the flue and opened the patio door next to the fireplace to allow the smoke and fire to draw upwards.  But every time I set fire to the newspaper, I just couldn’t get the right rhythm going with the small fires that petered out after a glorious start.  Oddly enough, I was mad at myself and caught my mind blaming myself.  By the time my mental roughing up was over, I had decided I was a failure at my life up to this point.  Anger creeped up my shoulders and locked in my jaw.  The next thing I knew, I was achy and tense all over.  My body was reacting to my mind.

The second attempt at a fire later that week was a blast.  I invested in a fantastic product called “Fire Nugget,” which is essentially pine shavings shaped into a small ball and held together by a thin layer of wax.  I cleaned out the blackened newspaper ashes from the previous attempt.  Then, I configured my logs and kindling into a little nest-like setup and set the fire nugget in the center and lit the little nugget.  In under 2 minutes the fire glowed and raced up the flue with grace and enthusiasm.  I fanned the flames and slightly opened the patio door and watched the fire glow and grow even stronger.  Excitement, touched with a twinge of anxiety, filled my stomach and chest.  I hovered around my fire all night and neglected my schoolwork because I was so proud and entranced by my creation that it was all I could think of.  Once I became more comfortable with the idea of a fire burning in my home, I gave myself permission to relax.  Immediately all the stress and tension I was holding in my shoulders, hands, legs and jaw loosened and I could breathe and enjoy the moment.  At that moment my mind was reacting to my body and my anxious thoughts were quelled by my breath.

As the night drew to a close, the embers from the beautiful fire were glowing and slowly dying out.  I’m sure I could have gone to bed having damped and banked the embers underneath and behind the cooled ashes; but I wasn’t so sure.  I stayed up well past my bedtime waiting for every single little glow to flicker out and die.  Anxiety rushed in through every pore any time I heard a snap or a crack.  All the beauty and joy of the evening was erased by my racing worries that rushed through my brain and came to rest in the stress pockets I’ve created in my body:  joints, jaw, shoulders, calves and hands.  Finally in bed, I became restless and tossed and turned and woke up with bizarre dreams filled with the worries of my day, my week and my life in general and the drama I’ve experienced, whether real or imaginary.

The third attempt at the fire tonight is peaceful and joyful.  For whatever reason, I’m fine with whatever course the fire takes.  It’s an energy that I can build or lessen by moving, poking, scraping or ignoring the logs.  I’m learning.  It’s a dance, and the fact that I can build a fire and watch it grow and unfurl its mystery is enjoyable in and of itself.

FireTonight’s fire is a nice reminder about dancing with my inner fire, that part of me that is so amazing, radiant, beautiful, warm and powerful.  I’m learning how to fuel and stoke my inner fire.  Sometimes I feed it the wrong fuel, like blame, guilt or anger, and it blazes then coughs and sputters and goes out, leaving me angry, dejected or annoyed.  Other times I feed it with bravado mixed with anxiety and it burns bright and fast, but then feeds on the fears that I harbor in the dark parts of myself.  Then, there’s tonight, when I approach my inner fire with a sense of play and wonderment and I let my mind and body connect and communicate with each other and just be all of the emotions and sensations that are flickering, twisting and dying out among the flames, the embers and the ashes.