For a while, we’ve been back in the heating season of the year. As days grow colder and shorter, we’re heating the cabin with fire, and often lighting candles or oil lamps in the late afternoon and early morning.
I seem to enter this time of year as if I had no memory of it. Each time we begin to light fires in the morning, and usually another in the evening, I’m filled with delight. It’s time to stare into the flames again!
Unlike most American living rooms, ours does not have a television. Instead, the wood stove creates our main room’s focus. When the stove’s lit, I find myself staring into it as steadfastly as if it were a television set!
I tell myself that I need to watch the fire, to ensure that it has caught properly and burns well, but really, I’m simply hypnotized by the leaping flames. I know this because, if the fire dies down to coals, losing its flame, my attention often redirects to the candle we generally light in the window. My attention is a figurative moth to the flame.
To ensure “prime viewing,” I make sure to carefully clean the glass window each morning (see Cleaning Woodstove Glass: How and Why). Primarily, we do that to allow the fire to light the room, but my real purpose is to provide the best view.
I suppose there might be something instinctive about our fascination with flames? It seems likely. And, as obsessions go, this one seems innocent enough. If I’m so captivated by the fire, burning other lights only detracts from it, so I use less electricity for the time I allow myself to dream before the fire. In the darkness, it’s easier to lose myself completely in the fire’s glow. It’s also far easier on the eyes than a computer screen or television.
Fire gazing may be the simplest of our many simple pleasures. If not the simplest, for me, it’s one of the best!