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TALKING TO MYSELF - 4 November 2013 When November's gray mornings roll around, I welcome them beside the gas fireplace in our tiny front room that I grandly call "the library." The bay window catches the morning light, and combined with the fireplace's heat, the morning paper and a cup of Ernie's good coffee, my spirit and cold bones ease into the day with grace and joy.
I know the purists are condescending towards my sweet fire, but you know what? For thirty years, I lived in houses that had wood-burning fireplaces, and we were able to muster the energy and verve to "build a fire" only on special occasions. It was always, "it's too late in the evening now," or "oh, no time this morning." Then there were the hateful ashes to contend with that took me back to the coal burning stoves of my childhood. There's nothing romantic, in my opinion, about ashes.
The environmentalists might chide me for burning a fossil fuel. And yes, that's true. But I'm reminded of Thoreau who preached the simple, back to basics life in his cabin by Walden Pond -- and went home to his mother's cozy house for a home cooked meal most every day. At this point in history, nearly everyone in this country consumes fossil fuels to survive. I would point out that my sealed natural gas fireplace is relatively fuel efficient.
And so on Day 4 of Thanks - Giving: As a woman who was traumatized in her childhood by cranky Warm Morning heating stoves, I am grateful that I've lived long enough to enjoy a fireplace that I can turn on and off with the flick of a finger.
What follows here is a brief excerpt from my essay, "Warm Morning," that is included in Butter in the Morning. Stay warm.
". . . At our house, a popular model incongruously called the “Warm Morning,” dominated our lives. Tall and stout, this black creature met the dawn with a chilly stare unless it was fed and caressed like a colicky baby throughout the night. The plan, always, was to stoke the fire well enough before bedtime so that it would smolder until morning. But often it would die out before daybreak despite Daddy’s efforts. On those cold mornings, Daddy would have to reach into the bowels of the beast, seeking a hidden lever with one hand to shake down the ashes while gouging at its gut with a poker in his other hand. For reasons I did not understand, the ashes had to be vanquished before he could attempt to get a new fire up and going.
The ruins of yesterday’s flames whirled through the early morning like a dust storm, choking the air and light out of the house, settling on the furniture, stifling our nostrils and our spirits. To me, it is the taste and smell of poverty. When I read of despair anywhere, the dry memories of those ashes settle in the back of my throat. . . .
[Now] others, young and unfrozen, have re-discovered fuel-efficient stoves, and are as excited as if they’d invented the wheel. And heating only two or three rooms is a great idea, too, they add. I don’t know whether to laugh or to cry. How can I explain to them that I’m still thawing out from my childhood? How do I describe the emotions that a cold house arouses in me? Because they’re not logical, I know that. You can’t explain dry memories of ashes in the back of your throat."
©Copyright Georgia Green Stamper