A Day in the Life of a FireDecember 7, 2016 / Category Tag, Firestarters
They don’t get to see each other much. Just a couple times a year for a few hours or a day. But my kids love their cousins. They text them and call them to try and close the miles that separate them. When they do get together, it’s as if time has not passed and they haven’t missed a beat. They still have the secret language, the inside jokes, the memories of their last visit are fresh and clear.
Grandma tells them to go outside and they decide that the best thing for breakfast isn’t cereal or eggs, but S’mores. They ask me to and I build a fire, where they roast their marshmallows and sing their made-up songs and enjoy the moment in a manner most adults can’t muster before heading out to sled and build forts in the woods.
It’s been a long year. A challenging year in a decade marked by the challenges of raising a family, maintaining a marriage and building a career. I haven’t slept well in months. Worry and anxiety have a tendency to creep in during the rare quiet moments. I’ve been tense. I’ve been on edge. I need a break, to relax and do something I hardly ever do: take time for myself.
With the kids out playing and my wife taking a nap, I head out to the fire and add some logs. I pore myself a drink and settle in for a book. I’m out there for probably an hour, but even in that time, I can feel it washing off of me, the weight of the world melting next to the heat. It’s better than yoga or therapy, it’s escape. The kids come back and it’s time to make them a snack. I take a final sip and finish the chapter I’m on before heading back inside.
After dinner, the kids can’t settle down. They’re still too excited to see each other, there’s still so much to talk about. They decide to skip the movie and bundle back up, to head out into the stinging night to sit by the fire and talk.
They’re out there for more than an hour and I sneak up to listen to what they’re saying. My niece is talking about karate, my nephew about his baseball team. My son is telling them a story about school and they all laugh and joke and howl into the night until it gets too cold to keep going. They come back inside, rosy cheeked and happy. Maybe I’m not the only one who needed this. Maybe they needed it just as badly as I did.
It’s late. The kids are finally settled down and the house is quiet. I go outside to check on the fire, which is still burning embers and warm. I think about tossing on some snow, but decided on putting another log or two on instead. I sit next to the warm glow and listen to the pines groan in the light breeze, the sounds of a North Woods night like a chorus I wouldn’t have been able to hear when my thoughts were in the way.
I let it wash over me, doing nothing but watching the orange glow and allow myself the luxury of simply being – being myself, being in the moment, being next to the fire and a small part in a much larger world. It’s a world where all the things that seem so huge are small, where all the problems and anxieties and stresses are rendered to their proper size and weight. It’s a world where it’s still possible – to be the man I want to be, to be the husband my wife deserves and the father my children need. It’s a world where work problems are as temporary as the echo and crackle of the fire.
And, after an hour in the cold in a sweater and slippers, the last of the logs have burned down to ash. I go inside and sleep for the first time in weeks. Tomorrow is nothing to fear, but simply another day.