I am alone in a cabin in the woods. These few hours of quiet in this peaceful setting are like a delectable gourmet dessert to me. Everything is still and beautiful in a winter sort of way. The mountain air is clear and clean. The forest is naked, having thrown off its leafy cloak for the stark honesty of winter. Even though the woodsy pallet is tree trunk gray instead of forest green, there is a loveliness and simplicity that startles me. It is the beauty of structure, of bones; the attraction of an etching rather than an oil. The lush of balmy summer long faded, we are now held captive by a sergeant like snap of crisp icy chill.
My family and I are enjoying a get-away in the beautiful mountains of North Carolina. As a gift to me, my husband has ventured down the mountain and through the woods with our daughters to give mom some much needed time alone. The quiet is my friend. I am still. I am peaceful. I am…cold.
In the chaos of gathering up girls (put down your make-up, unplug your iPods, gather your jackets, put on your boots, turn off your phones…) my dear husband managed to do everything important except…leave me with a roaring fire. This would be no big deal except that it is freezing, and the fire was supposed to be my companion for the day.
I picked this sweet cabin in the woods, in part because it has a big fireplace in the center of its little universe. It is the kind of fireplace you imagine all pioneer families had in the day – the hub of the home where everything good and cozy happens. There are two grapevine rockers on an animal skin rug right in front of the fireplace. All I want to do today is quietly rock and stare into the crackling fire…but there is no fire.
So, what would any worthy pioneer woman do in a situation like this? She would make her own fire of course. But I am a city girl, hopelessly dependent on electricity, and decades removed from anything I learned at Girl Scout camp. Add to that, I am still in my PJs and I don’t want to venture outside. Alas, to have the day I am dreaming of, there is only one thing to do. I must draw on my inner frontier woman and boldly go where no man has gone today – hoping that no bears have gone there either. (You know the threat is real when the trashcan is bolted down and has a sign reading, “Keep locked in case of Bears”) Adventure awaits!
Donning coat and scarf right over PJs, I strike out into the wild to gather fire-making materials. Only a few feet outside of the cabin, and I am already glad for my dilemma. If dear husband had made a fire for me, I would be missing the majestic view of nature and the peace I am feeling just from stepping out into the universe. I begin to look for bark and small sticks to use as kindling. The colors and textures of the winter moss capture my imagination. I feel as if I am in a foreign world. The hills call out to me and the personality of nature herself bids me, “Good morning!” Birds are singing, but all else is silent. I am struck by the serenity of it all. I stand in worshipful stillness. After drinking in the beauty, I wander deeper into the forest gathering up the sticks and wood I need, then turning, I hurry back inside.
Now to make fire. Calling on my limited experience with wood and matches, I attempt to build what I think will work. Leaving room for air to circulate, I make a base of twigs and bark underneath the beautiful oak logs I have placed on the irons. With a little luck and a little help from cardboard out of the kitchen trash, the kindling catches and we are off. The flue is open, the chimney is drawing nicely and in no time, I have a beautiful roaring fire. I am as satisfied as a well-fed baby on its mother’s bosom.
I rock, and I ponder how today, adventure called me, nature blessed me, fire warms me, and my heart is full. In this artificial world we are accustomed to, with its light switches and heating units, cell phones and laptops, it is important to get back to basics every now and again. It is good to remember what it is to make fire, to depend on the resources only nature can provide. Every step of this little adventure reminds me what is real, what is true, what is beautiful, and what is life giving. There is honesty in the simple life, much like the honesty of the bare-naked winter. Our society may be lush with convenience, but the simple life has a beauty all its own.
“Goodness remembers what really matters.”
A “Good” Idea:
Reconnect with nature and the simple life in some way this week. Let yourself drink it in and enjoy!