It’s Saturday, late October. Sagittarius rising, I’m told. I don’t fully know what that means. The stars are bright, but they guard their secrets.
What I do know is that today is a different sort of milestone – one that hits much closer to home. The first fire of the season.
The first fire is always the most special. It’s the one that reminds us of the sweet smell of hemlock, the swirling path of a wisp of smoke, the snapping curl of a flame. The one that tells us to slow down, stay grounded, and appreciate what’s around us.
By mid-winter, the spell will wear off and this will be just one more chore to tend to. But right now, it’s magical in a wholly mundane way. Nothing about it is magic of course, and yet everything is. That wood which has soaked up the sun’s rays over the course of a lifetime can now return its warmth. That the cutoffs and remnants of that same wood can kindle its fire into being. That fire, which can so thoroughly burn wood, can also lightly kiss it to protect it from ever burning at all.
This year I witness it all from a new place, an antique rocking chair we found at a vintage store. It’s small, simple frame curves around my sides, its smooth arms cradling mine. It’s as if it was made for me, or certainly for someone my size.
I try to discern the wood. Maple? I look for the telltale shimmer. Cherry? Not quite enough red. I study its grain lines and settle on red oak as a guess. I’ll never know for sure, and it won’t ever tell.
As I sit comforted by wood at my back and warmed by wood at my front, the symmetry of it all is not lost on me.
I sink into a deep appreciation of what nature provides, while surrounded by things made by hand. The arms of the rocking chair are smooth as silk, like a tool worn over time. But they’re only that way due to the cooperation of the tree, not just the careful sanding of the craftsman.
There is a break along one side where the tree didn’t cooperate, for one split second. It’s long since been mended, but still bears the scar. A wound that can never heal.
They never truly do, do they?
The memory of the moment is always there, etched into the topography of surface. I look down at my forearms where my own scars reside, lessons of tending an overnight fire. A quick kiss from a cast iron stove in the dark of night is enough to remind me to wear sleeves the next time. Every year I forget, and every year I am reminded.
But not tonight. Tonight the rocking chair will settle into stillness, and I’ll trade its gentle movement for the stillness of warm blankets. Sagittarius will continue to quietly rise unnoticed. And the first fire will smolder until it is nothing but a dusting of ash on a cold cast iron grate.
They’ll all keep their secrets for another day.