I built a fire yesterday for no other reason it was the only natural light I could get. November has a tendency to go grey, early and often, and honestly I cannot stand very much of it. Sam is a fire dog, and likes to get near it, but most of that stems from his belief fire creates rats for him to hunt. Rodents like the bramble I pile up for fires, and when I set fire to the bramble, or I start hauling it to the firepit, the rats have to move, and that brings Sam into focus. My elbow still isn’t 100%, so as I struggle with the larger stuff, Sam pulls the smaller branches away, trying to spook a rodent into moving. Lucas doesn’t understand what Sam is trying to do, but he does understand Sam is trying to do something, so he stands back, one front paw lifted off the ground, ears up, brow furrowed, and he waits for resolution. Alas! The rodents have learned, and this is a lesson they’ve learned from bitter experience, that setting up shop near the firepit is peril incarnate. Sam quarters the pile, digs underneath it, but comes up empty. Lucas learns how to hunt, but he doesn’t learn what he’s hunting yet.
This isn’t to be a big fire at all. All I want is to be warm, and I want to see light. All the blankets and clothes on earth cannot replace real heat. Electric light is not sunlight. True enough, fire is no great substitute for either the sun or body heat, but it is all I can create with my unwell hands. I crave fire. I crave the feel of my skin tightening under its blaze. I crave the bright spots under the fuel, the glowing coals of the fire life, and I crave the warmth to the bone feeling only fire, or a woman, can bring; within everything.
This is the first fire for the Loki Mutt and he misinterprets the gathering of sticks. Strays are rarely Stove Touchers, and as soon as the first flowers of flame blossom he takes his cue from Bert and backs away from the fire. Bert will come in on the fire as soon as it is settled, and warm with me, but he has learned to keep distance from a young fire. Most of the fuel is still wet from the weekend’s rain but I am a Firesmith. I can coax into flame that which can be coaxed. Oh, no gasoline, or any sort of accelerant is allowed, oh my no, that is so heavy handed. One match, some dry tender, and from that I can create a conflagration if it so pleases me. But all I want right now is to be warm again, to feel heat sink deep into my flesh, and feel the power of fire course through me very slowly. I want my hands to be warm, and my feet to feel alive. I want a fire.
I strike the match towards the tender and for a second I think the wind killed it, but the flame ebbs and flows from the matchstick. I twist the stem around, hold it down, and the tiny flame lives yet. I have a small pile of dry leaves and Spanish moss for the baby fire to suckle, and break tiny twigs up and build it a small house to live in. Smoke hides the flame, and as always I think maybe it’s gone out again, but the tiny flame once more survives the feeding and begins eating the twigs. All of this is taking place under the pile of stuff Sam and I have gathered, but it is far too early for the fire to have such a meal. Small sticks are next and then larger fuel until there is a small bed of coals for the fire to rest upon, and rest it does not. It’s trying to colonize now, sending out heat and fire onto some of the smaller stuff in the pile, and if it can get another part of the pile burning, which it does, both parties feed upon the heat of each other. Tiny twigs to pencil sized sticks to thin limbs to small branches to good-sized pieces of woods, and in between leaves, moss, and debris become a banquet for the fire. The coals under the fire are few but slowly become a glowing bed of heat. I have a fire! This is a feeling I share with generations of unwarm humans, back to the days we first sought to stand upright. Some small bent creature hiding in a cave with tame wolves and his ( or her) kin crowded around waited for this moment with me. The fire takes a life of its own, now only dying for lack of fuel, now getting as big as it can get as fast as it can, now with real heat, the cold is over, the wait is over, and there is light, and there is warmth, and there is finally a fire! Smoke turns on me and I instinctively close my eyes, and I wonder how many generations of Firesmith’s have sat near a newborn flame and cried these tears. I hold my hands out and in them I see thousands of others before me, fingers spread out to catch the heat, the flames licking and curling behind them, and I know this is elemental to us, this is as human as it gets without being in the those of passion, and this though a poor substitute for that heat, is still so much a part of who we are, this fire.