The kids wanted a fire after dinner. My habitual “no” rose to my throat and then fell before making any noise. I would have said no, I don’t make good fires, no, you need to get ready for bed, no, we don’t have time, no, I don’t want to deal with the mess, no, no, a thousand times no.
But a lifetime only has room for so many yeses, and I had been filling my opportunities for yes with way too many nos, and what did I have to lose anyway?
Yes, I told them. Luthien got the s’mores ingredients. I hauled out the lighter and newspaper, and built a sorry little leaning firewood tepee in the firepit. Wadded the newspaper, lit it, threw in some tiny sticks. Repeated several times, then several more. Tiny blazes flamed up and died down, but nothing really took for good. Still, we roasted our ‘shmallows and made our s’mores with the heat we did manage to produce. And my anticipated failure surprised me with its adequacy.
Bedtime came. The firepit seemed barely hot, a little smoke puffing here and there. I decided not to throw any water on it because we might want to have a fire the next night, and I didn’t want to soak the unburned wood. My firewood tepee stood unharmed, sheltering the fluttery newspaper ash below it.
Pajamas, toothbrushing, potty, prayers. Kitchen cleanup, dishes. An hour later I opened the back door to toss something in the recycling bin, and a blaze of orange caught my eye.
My “fire” was crackling away, blazing and burning and looking, smelling, sounding for all the world like an actual backyard fire might do if an actual person who knew something about making fires had started one.
The wind had picked up in that hour, and it had done what wind does in combination with fuel and heat. It had breathed on my little backyard offering and transformed it into something larger than my adequacy.
I wonder, what might happen with your heat and fuel if the next time you were asked to start a fire, you said yes instead of no, if you did your best and then let whatever it became sit out in the open air on a starry night? What if the wind picked up? You just never know.
*Of course you should never leave a fire unattended, however pathetic a fire you think it is. I would have put the cover on my fire pit (it’s one of those metal containers with a grate that fits over top), but the tepee was sticking up too high for it to fit. I’d like to say I would have peeked at it again before going to bed, and thankfully that’s what I did.