Here is Edwin Way Teale on nights lit by fire.
For us the pleasures of our fireplace begin even before we light the first fire. During the latter days of October and the early days of November, Nellie and I range through the woods over fallen leaves, gathering sticks, breaking up dry branches, picking up poles in a harvest of winter kindling.
Then, in the short winter days and the long winter evenings, the great fireplace of our living room comes into its own. It brings light and color and movement and sound and perfume and a direct warmth into the room where an old wall clock ticks away the minutes and chimes the hours and half-hours throughout the day and night.
The appeal of an open fireplace is deep-seated. It has its roots in four of our five senses: sight, hearing, feeling, smelling. We watch the flicker and the altering shapes and colors of the flames. We hear the snapping and crackling of the burning logs. We smell the perfume of the various woods as they are consumed. We feel the warmth of the dancing flames and glowing coals. Endlessly these elements are combined and recombined. No two fireplace fires are ever the same. Each represents a different pattern of flames, a different sequence of sounds, a different play of colors. These fires of winter are as dissimilar as wave marks on the seashore, as varied as autumn leaves or flakes of snow or human beings.
The voices of our fireplace range from a soft flutter of flames, like a silken flag flapping in the breeze, through sharp snappings of the burning wood, like small firecrackers exploding. At times there are tiny cracklings like sleet on a windowpane. Then, at the end of the evening, comes the sleepy-sounding fires, dying, falling into silence with a soft simmer and murmur as lulling as rippling water or rustling leaves.
How wonderfully snug and enclosed we feel in winter storms with logs blazing on the hearth! Sitting there, gazing at the ever-changing kaleidoscope of the flames as they flicker before the smoke-blackened stones, we often become aware of a curious dislocation in time. We might be enjoying the warmth and light and color in any other period during the long history of this companionable hearth - before the first airplane flew or before the Civil War or when California was in Spanish hands. In no other hours is this feeling of temporarily being afloat in time, of living in undated moments, more apparent that when Nellie, filling in gaps in our acquaintance with the classics, reads aloud at the end of the day from books that came into being over a span of centuries of time.
And as the winter days go by, as the logs of oak and maple and hickory that are packed row on row in the center shed, each in turn burn to ashes, we watch the piles dwindle down like sand in an hourglass. Each year we burn about five cords of wood in our living-room fireplace. The gradual disappearance of fireplace wood measures, as in some larger glass, the progress of the season. In all varieties of winter weather I bring in the logs. Often as I emerge from the shed, a log on my shoulder, the smell of woodsmoke is sweet in the clear cold air.
- Edwin Way Teale, 1974
Most of us don't burn five cords of wood in a winter, but we all have candles. We can sit and look at a candle, breathe in and out, and get much of the same effect as with a huge fire. Sleep tight these cold winter nights.
Be the flame tucked and untucked in the shifting currents of air.