Winter Fire

For the last two late afternoons high fluffy clouds have moved in overhead just before sunset, spreading a wonderful glowing yellow light all about the forest. The forest seems to be emanating light from a fire, and in a sense truly is, the sun being an over-sized campfire for planet earth to warm herself. Yesterday carpenters dropped a new gas fireplace into the box they built. The irony of them doing this on such a day of exceptionally warm sunny glow! I am becoming too soft to live in a house with inadequate heating. The firewood-chopping years are over. I could never keep the old sheet-metal box stoked long enough to warm the small house. Rather than throw out heat, the old fireplace would suck any warm air out of the house and up the chimney, leaving us sitting in a whirlwind of a cool draft.

Some objected to the idea of tearing out a wood-burning fireplace. What if an energy shortage occurs in the future? Or so went the argument. My answer is that we’d be more warm sitting in an unheated house in long underwear and wrapped in wool blankets than we would be if we built another cold and drafty fire. Today the new fireplace is scheduled to be tied into the natural gas line under the house, and perhaps tonight we will see the new come alive with blessed heat.

Californians do not much understand cold. We get some frosty nights and I have seen snow two or three times in Soquel in forty years, but mostly our weather is pleasantly tolerable. Maybe that is why I enjoy reading New England literature, and accounts of snow, iced-over lakes and ponds, icicles, and barren landscapes. I can vicariously enjoy that rugged sense of what winter means, rather than suffer the first-hand experience of it. I can imagine the wonder of pretty snowflakes piling up everywhere without the inconvenience of immobility. California immobility comes, rather, in the form of traffic jams on the roads.

This winter, however, seems to be a light one on the west coast. A ridge of pressure, I understand, sits between us and the arctic, blocking the storm flow. I could make an analogy between this phenomenon and the one occurring these days in the nation’s capitol, but it would come to me too easily and would reveal my more cantankerous side, so I will let the temptation pass for just now.

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