Chill wind, chill rain, morning glory leaves shrinking at the first touch of frost. After her long sleep through the summer inside her cold black stove, it is time to awaken the fire goddess. I need to keep warm for the winter.
Though sweltering in August, I never forgot her. I laid in and stacked four cords of wood, maple and oak, to feed her endless appetite. The chimney is newly cleaned, the stove swept out and cracked firebricks replaced. Now there’s little sun to start my solar panel pumping heat. The house gets too chilly for another fleece shirt. It’s time to give her a prod.
The first time is always a ritual, The base of small sticks laid out on the ash-free bricks, the pyramid of scrunched up newspaper, old cardboard, twigs and kindling. the heavy blocks set in at each side to contain the infant blaze. The first match, the first tiny flame, then the whoosh of dry newspaper flaring high, then dying as quickly while I hope the kindling has had time to catch. Sometimes it take two of three more tries before the slivers of wood decide to keep the little flames going. The fire goddess takes her time, showing me she wakes at her own leisure.
She relents at last. Kindling begins to burn so I pile more on until I feel the flickers will not die again should I turn away. Lastly, I grow confident enough to put another block on top of the kindling so that the new fire is now enclosed on all sides, something it seems to like very much. I close the door and through the polished glass, I see the flames grow stronger, lick under the side blocks and engulf the top block in a hungry stream of orange.
I smile — and imagine the fire goddess smiles back. She is fully awake now and stretching herself inside her iron home. The best of friends, we will co-habit cheerily when the snows blow in. But I have still changed the batteries in the smoke alarms. I also know she will not pass up any chance to get out of hand.