Alan lit the end of a curled up piece of newspaper and held it inside the stove for a moment. The flame wavered and then caught hold, and the thin layer of smoke swirled up the chimney. He set it down on the cast iron grate and carefully arranged a few scraps of wood around it and closed the door. We quietly watched in anticipation.
It was the first fire of the season.
On the one hand, a mixed blessing. No one likes to turn on their heat in the fall. It’s a reluctant admission that winter is near, whether we want it to be or not.
The first wisp of a log as it takes hold, it’s decadent. The salty smell of hickory, or the sweetness of maple languishes in the air. First it’s barely noticeable, caught between invisible layers of ether. Then it starts to slowly fill the room, seeping into every crevice.
The dogs and I jockey for position on the hearth, rotating like a rotisserie. Front. Then back. Then front again. Then a walk into the other room to bring our feverish temperature back down to normal. The coveted spot is forfeited until next turn.
I curl up on the couch and watch the flames dance.
I read not long ago that the word focus comes from the Latin word for fireplace. I roll it over in my mind. The fireplace, the focal point of the home… it makes sense, I suppose. If you don’t have heat, you have nothing. We don’t think about it much, cradled by conveniences of modern life. But in winter, we’d be lost without it.
And perhaps the inverse is also true. If you don’t have focus, if you have grand ideas and desires but not the focus to do the work to attain them, you’ll have nothing to show for it all.
Focus is the fire that drives us toward our dreams.
Creativity is warm-blooded, it seems. Deep down we all knew that, I suspect. When our needs are met, when we’re warm and well fed, it’s easy to be inspired, to do the work. But when we’re cold, isolated, struggling in other ways, it’s much harder.
And, if that wasn’t all enough, this winter may prove to be the hardest of all. For reasons outside of our control, as if it makes a difference. We’re bracing ourselves. Having one last distanced visit, taking one last hike before it’s too cold to be outside.
Gathering the emotional firewood to keep ourselves warm.
Collecting the bits of curiosity and inspiration. Turning them over in our minds until they’re well seasoned. Saving them for a cold winter day when we might add the tiniest spark and watch them all come to light.