Yesterday, on the last day of September, I cleaned and filled the oil lamps. I originally planned to perform this autumn chore on the Autumnal Equinox, either standard or local (see Preparing for the Dark Half of the Year) but Michelle’s folks arrived on the 22nd, so very little got done here at home.
So, as September drew to a close, and October waited to make its entrance, I prepared our oil lamps to greet it.
I started by gathering the glass chimneys for a good washing. I collected chimneys from the three lamps that have remained in the cabin since last spring, the boat lamp above the table, the wall lamp that hangs over the kitchen sink, and the elegant, clear pedestal lamp I keep on my side of the bed, in case of emergency. Then, taking the reservoirs from the two in that group that need filling, I visited the shed, where I traded empties for the chimneys belonging to the four lamps out there, the two big red pedestals, and the little portable lamps.
I thought of how beautiful our drinking glasses look after soaking in the sterilizer I use for the wine making equipment, and prepared a tub of it for the chimneys. I got the water as hot as possible, both for the sterilizer, and the rinse, so that the chimneys would dry without spots. After washing and drying them, I set them on the cooling wood stove top to evaporate a bit further.
I wrestled the 5-gallon jug of Kleenheat® lamp fuel out from under the work bench, laid out some newspaper, and filled the reservoirs. I noted which ones I’d filled too full. I would need to light these right away, to burn off a bit of fuel before the warmth of the cabin expanded the liquid and made it leak. I wiped each lamp cleaned with paper towels, then took them into the cabin two at a time. After pairing each with its proper chimney, I distributed them around the house.
The aroma of the burning fuel, while not as strong as regular kerosene, brings to mind the warm cabin in evening snowfall, sailboats riding at anchor or dried out in the mud after a long day’s sail, and many other pleasant associations. It smells like autumn, and the coming winter. It smells like home.
And yes, because I am a sentimental fool, I sat down and read Mary Oliver’s The Lamps, from her book, Twelve Moons (see Mary Oliver’s The Lamps).
For a decidedly less romantic view of the job, see Time to Prepare the Oil Lamps for the Winter.
For our oil lamp primer, see Oil Lamps as Alternative Lighting in the Home.