Relax by the Fire
I grew up in a semi rural environment, sort of on the very outer edge of the suburbs. I was involved with Scouts and Scouting way before I could be a Scout as my father was a Scoutmaster, so I've been around a lot of campfires. There are few feelings as good on a cold morning as building a fire in the first light, enjoying the warmth and cheeriness of the flames. Camping and fires are wonderful experiences.
However, I spent the first 20 years of my adult life in the Army. The Army engages in a less comfortable and occasionally more demonstrative form of "camping", but definitely frowns on campfires. I got involved in Scouting again with my two boys and got to enjoy camping and fires again at the end of my Army career. The boys have grown and my Scouting days past. The wife's idea of camping is a 4 star hotel without room service, so the camping went by the wayside with Scouting.
A few years ago, she, in despair at picking out a suitable gift for my birthday, got me a terracotta chiminea for our deck. The best gift in years. Our fairly wooded yard provided a seemingly endless supply of dead fall sticks and pine cones. Our deck provided a great place. Many a weekend morning would find me ensconced in front of my chiminea with a cup of coffee and the morning paper, without a care in the world. The first one cracked after a couple of years and was replaced by a slightly bigger one. Then my kids gave me a metal one to replace it when it, too, cracked. I moved briefly to Kansas, bought one there (no fire places in the houses there even though it's cold as ...), amused my neighbors with my fires and found it to be a selling point when I sold the place ("Are you leaving the fireplace? I really want you to leave the fireplace...").
Last year my wife bought me an outdoor fireplace (a metal and faux brick portable job vs brick and mortar) which I promptly installed on the deck and put to work. Now, most weekend mornings (except for the hot and humid July and August) you'll find me there.
Now the weather has turned cool and it is nearly perfect. Yesterday I was up at my usual weekday time of 0530, had a fire laid and found myself in front of the flames in the predawn darkness. There is something magical about that time between darkness and dawn. The Army called it BMNT, that first hint of the new day. That transition from darkness to light is my favorite time of day. Watching the sky turn from sparkling black to a new washed blue, the world from shadows of blacks and greys to a pallet of colors. Add a cup of hot coffee, and the paper when it is light enough to read, and you have a kind of neverland where the cares of the daily world are banished.
This morning it was cool, crisp with a light breeze. The sky above was a gorgeous deep blue, rimmed on one side with the rich green of our woods. The humming birds are still here and are hitting the feeder hard getting stocked up for migration. We have bird feeders, and the birds, especially the smaller ones don't mind me or the fire, fluttering in and out to share breakfast. We have a hawk who checks us out regularly, screeching his good morning, a really big owl who I see sometimes before it's really light, lots of crows, the occasional noisy flight of geese, and a group of squirrels unhappy because I keep them from raiding the bird feeders while I'm there. Woodpeckers are common, in several varieties, mostly the small black and white stiped ones with a red flash. But this morning, we had a redheaded crested variety, al la Woody Woodpecker, that was at least a foot tall.
It is a blessed retreat from the daily grind of life. And a very civilized form of camping - sleep in your own warm and comfortable bed, coffee from the coffee maker, followed by real porcelain and a hot shower. But it is the time in front of that fire, the dancing flames, the turning of darkness to light, the blue sky and God singing to you in the soft wind in the trees, the quiet brush with nature that makes that time all mine, a renewal of the body and soul from the rush of the work a day world.