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My Year of Buying Nothing

That time I came clean about fuel consumption (Part 2)

By Lee Simpson

I am a pyromaniac! I love starting fires and then gazing at them endlessly. And given that material gain inspires my blazes, I could be classified as an arsonist, according to Wikipedia. Mercifully, though, I don’t suffer from the lack of impulse control — the kind that could push my flirtation with fire into a full-blown mental disorder. Instead, my fires are well planned.

We have a wood stove that heats our home and lights up my life. Gosh, I’m nuts about that thing! In the event of a house fire, the stove would be the first inanimate object I’d grab. This love affair began when we moved to the country from the city.

I didn’t grow up around fires. We didn’t have a working fireplace until I was in my teens, and then, it was only decoration. At Christmas, Dad would purchase a garishly labelled fake log from a gas station; wrestle with the flue; light that sucker and we’d say nice things while choking on thick, black smoke and witnessing the warmth of a ‘clean’ oil furnace escape up the chimney.

So we weren’t campers. In fact, I’d describe our family as anti-campers. The idea of my elegant mother hosting a fireside meal outside a tent still gives me the giggles. Suffice to say, fire-lighting was not part of my past.

But now, the heart of our home is a cast-iron, wood-burning stove — a brass and green enamel thing of beauty. It waits for autumn beside the stairs in the living and dining area. What’s more, it’s well set and all fired up, heating our entire home for free! Being of Scottish Presbyterian heritage and canny with a dime, I adore that part. So with our chain saw and wood splitter, we turn the windfall trees on our property into warmth, in order to combat the most bitter, wintry blast. That’s after the mandatory two-year aging period, of course!

There is a debate when it comes to burning wood. But we can continue to grow trees if we remain good stewards. A well-managed woodlot only requires research, just like my fire-setting! Admittedly, I didn’t get it at first. Then I met a chimney sweep, a much-revered community asset who gravely instructed me in the art of layering: paper spills, twig kindling, small, stumpy branches and two big logs artfully arched against the back of the furnace. Then use one match, adjust the draft and whoosh. In the winter, the fire just goes and goes. And, when the electricity goes off — as it does frequently — our neighbours without a wood stove can join us, too, as we cook on our iron maiden.

So I gaze wonderingly into this practical marvel. I watch it ignite, holding my breath as the latent smoke converts to a brilliant flame. I remain amazed by the predictability of the flame’s patterns, just like living things, dancing in choreographed sequence. Then, I think. I meditate. I pray. These soulful activities are brightened by God’s gift of fire, you see. And I didn’t even buy a thing.


Rev. Lee Simpson is a writer in Lunenburg, N.S. New posts of YBN will appear every other Friday. You can also check out a short documentary about Lee at http://www.ucobserver.org/video/2014/04/ybn/.
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