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Pocket of Joy: Heart Fire

Is anything better than a beach bonfire?

A few days ago, I wrote about taking a playful approach to natural forces while maintaining respect for them. Today, I'm reminded of the bittersweet pleasures of a well-controlled fire. Some of my happiest memories have occurred around a fire, such as this Great Lakes beach bonfire above, with my husband and two dear friends. We haven't done any burning in a long while due to our air quality already being compromised by the tragic wildfires that have overtaken Canada and the Western U.S., but we know that "fun fire" season will return, probably sometime this fall, and that we will be able to enjoy it responsibly.

We built indoor and outdoor hearth fires into our home environment when we bought our house. My family dug a fire pit in our back yard by hand and surrounded it with all the rocks we could find in the rubble of a previous owner's landscaping. 

We chose a house with a good, solid fireplace in the middle of a walkout basement so that we could use it as a pleasing secondary heat source.

And then we bumped up the heating efficiency of that fireplace by purchasing, for $400, a rusty old fireplace insert sitting in a farmer's barn and rehabbing and installing it with the help of buddy DJ Truwaxx, a dandy handy man who used to live near us way back in the Before Times!

We are eternally grateful for that, because this fireplace insert saved our behinds during the Great Ice Storm of 2013, when our power was out for nearly exactly two weeks through a record-breaking cold snap and heavy ice blizzard, over Christmas and New Year's, while we had a toddler.

That thing heated our 1700 square foot house above the danger of pipes freezing, and we were able to brew moka pot espresso and make pancakes on the cooking surface. And it made survival seem a bit festive.

When we don't need a fire hot enough to keep us alive in subarctic temperatures, we can also place a cast iron griddle or dutch oven inside the fire box to cook naan bread and other fire-roasted cuisines. We've successfully made bacon, French toast, tandoori chicken, pot roasts, and pizza in or on this beauty.

But the best part about a hearth fire is when it's also a heart fire--a soul-soothing source of light and warmth that feels like love, whether shared by others or enjoyed in meditative solitude.

A nice beeswax candle can hold a heart fire too, even in a tiny apartment like the one we lived in before we bought our house.

Candlelight can create a mood that is festive, romantic, meditative, or reverent. It can be a comfort in times of grief.

By now we've certainly lit a few candles for friends we have lost, including one of our former beach bonfire buddies. 

Fire feels real. It feels like fun and friendship and survival and food and home and healing. Fire is sacred and powerful, an energy that can cause mass destruction or sustain us, if we tend it with care.


  1. Dear Genie:

    Verily, verily, I say you should be published in a chic and 'spensive design and fashion magazine somewhere. I love your stuff and I can't help but smile at much of what you write.

    A fireplace is a wonderful thing. We often use ours in Upham Manor, though now with the Day Care running in our home, that may not be so common a thing anymore. We've looked several times into pellet burning stoves, are you familiar with them? They seem very efficient and claim to save enormous amounts in heating costs. They are expensive up front, however, and you do lose much of the charm of the open fire. But, if the price of heating oil jumps up again, I think that seems like my best bet.

    Stay cozy!

  2. Why, thank you, sir!

    A pellet stove is another good option. They're more convenient and less mess and hazard for little kids.

    We chose a wood burner because we wanted to be able to burn whatever (scrap wood, junk mail, old newspapers, etc.), whenever (including when the power goes out--our insert has no electrical component and works by convection only). Also, it works for us because our household includes two healthy young menfolks who enjoy chopping wood. :)

    Besides a pellet stove, another option is to install a wood burning stove (like the old-fashioned pot=belly kind) on the exterior of the home and run piping into and through the house from the outside. It's not as efficient as an internal stove, but it keeps the fire outside of the living space.

    Then there are heating options that burn natural gas or propane, which are much cheaper than heating oil or electric heat.

    There are many ways to stay toasty! Most of them pay for their up-front costs in a year or two. I also enjoy the peace of mind of having more than one way to heat my house through the winter.

  3. I like fires, for the ambiance, but mostly for toasting marshmallows!

    You know what has really worked for me as far as heating solutions? Moving to Mexico. XD

    I don't miss the snow but I do miss my besties!

    Besitos, mujer mia!

  4. The Mexicans sure are pros at living poor and fabulous. There is no shortage of sunshine down there, for sure. That saves heating costs! Perhaps in a few years we will save enough money to retire in San Luis. Haha.


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