Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The art of fire

Presume not that I am the thing I was;
For God doth know, so shall the world perceive,
That I have turn'd away my former self
                          -- Shakespeare, King Henry IV, Scene V

I wake and fire is my first thought, whether it is 3 a.m. or 8 a.m.

Fire is a priority. Tonight, it is very cold, with a blustery wind blowing down from the northwest, the wind chill sitting right around 0 degrees Fahrenheit, and a winter storm rolling in. 

I've mastered the art of regulating air in this fairly tiny wood stove to fan the flames of my life source. For awhile, it was a struggle. The cabin was either an 85 degree inferno or 50 degree ice box.

I'm no stranger to wood heat. The furnace at the farm in Ohio is a wood furnace. But it kicks on electronically and with loving regularity once a fire is going, forcing warm air throughout all parts of the farm house. A tiny wood stove in a 16x20 cabin is different. This fire takes patience. It takes attention, and like a devoted lover, my mind never strays too far from thinking about fire.

Tonight, I miss my children. My mother called me up, begging me to return to Ohio. I felt drawn, my focus pulled away from training and racing and to my family.

I gave each of my dogs a few extra flakes of straw tonight with their dinner, then came inside, sat down in front of the small wood stove in the tiny cabin listening to the wind whip around me and did what made sense to me. I lit a candle, made some tea, turned off my phone and deactivated my Facebook account temporarily, and prayed.

Sometimes, the only thing left to do is be quiet and pray.

I came here seeking solitude and a safe place to grieve a failed marriage. I came here to this tiny space to be quiet and listen for how to move forward. And this landscape, with its arid expanse of tiny lakes, tall white pines and wildlife has changed me undeniably.

I went to my friends Ed and Tasha Stielstra's kennel last weekend to photograph a women's expedition/adventure group from Ohio on their first dog sled ride. While having lunch with them, I realized how foreign my lifestyle must seem. They discussed frustrations in their corporate lives, compared manicures, joked about husbands and fussed for twenty full minutes with toe warmers and garb to head outside for a dog sled ride.

As I listened to them, I realized I could not go back to that life. That life.

I cannot go back to the chaos of my former life, cannot go back to the woman I was before. There has to be a place in the world for simplicity like this. I deny emphatically a world that says I have to be something other than what I am. I have not once longed for a television here. All fall and winter I hear occasionally of epidemics of flu or crimes and they shock me, so insulated am I in this tiny vortex of life. It is as if the world goes on somewhere else, and this community here along the shores of Lake Superior is isolated from it.

I am exceedingly thankful for things like the beech trees that heat this cabin at night, the sound of the wind through the white pines, the ocean-like Lake Superior, great friends who have made this season tolerable and my amazing dogs who have made it an adventure.

Tonight, the wind and the snow swirl outside. And I throw another log on the fire, and wait.

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