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When There's Nothing You Can Do, Build a Fire


I like to build fires.

When it's chilly but not bitter, overcast but not raining, there's nothing more satisfying than dragging out our rusty, hand-me-down fire pit and making a blaze.

I gather armfuls of twigs, grab a couple of large logs from the garage and twist up some newspaper. I use an old blue lighter that I keep on the back porch for just such occasions, and after I start the fire up, I like to toss in another handful of newspaper or leaves to get it really roaring.

From time to time, I use a wide stick I've saved to remove the fire pit's cage, then stir the ashes or poke the burning logs.

I might sit nearby, pulling the tape off a cardboard box, tearing it into strips and feed those in, too.

I watch the fire, move my chair out of the smoke if the wind direction changes and think about nothing, everything.


My kids have dispersed long ago, bored of collecting sticks from the yard, but I can still see them inside, through the windows. They watch TV or play in the living room, and occasionally, I scroll aimlessly through my phone, but more often, I put it in my pocket and leave it there.

I start to smell the smoke on my clothes, in my hair, and it smells like my childhood, like bonfires on the beach and a taverna's souvlaki grill.

It's the same fire my ancestors have sat in front of for hundreds, thousands, millions of years.

It's reality and yet it's relaxing. It feels like doing something but isn't.


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