It was a glowing idea. I did not need an alternative two years ago when my husband's endurance and health required him to stop bringing in wood and building our fires. I picked up the slack. We are a team.
Local son kept firewood on our porch and several times a week, with my trusty pull-along, even on shivery cold days I could bring wood indoors and stack it next to the fireplace.
Under my husband's watchful eye and patient suggestions, every evening I built our fires.
All winter. We love our evening fires. Addicted might be the better word.
This year, it is now too much for me. Too much to lug, lift, shovel, squat, stoop, bend, lift, lug. Too much. I can't do it.
Okay, I said; no more wood fires.
Oh, I know: I will have a candle place.
For days, I planned, thought, pondered, and decided yes! I must have something to flicker and glow.
Today was the day. I went to work with joy. One lone and charred log remained from the last fire we had just before Spring. I tossed it into the back yard and sang as I polished the glass doors, measured strips of aluminum foil, and cleaned candle holders.
I thought and arranged. Stepped back to assess. Rearranged and moved candles and assorted holders back and forth. Finally. Yes.
For the final touch, I added my collection of sea shells. I filled the floor of the fireplace, between all the glowing lights, with beloved treasures I had gathered and collected through many years. Shells from Texas beaches in Galveston, Rock Port, Corpus, and South Padre; from the white sands in Jacksonville, N.C.; from a memorable beach inTampa, Fl. and one in Charleston, SC.
Perfect. Beautiful. I sighed deeply. No, not the same as a blazing wood fire, but this is fine. I struck a long match and quickly the candle place glowed and flickered.
What? Did you say something about pride? ... a fall????
Within an hour, one large candle melted down its center core and spilled all over the floor of the fireplace. At least that aluminum foil idea paid off. I cleaned up the wax, added a few tall tapers, and surveyed. Okay. Maybe . . .
Less than ten minutes, my tall, expensive tapers burned down to a figment of my imagination. No way could I keep the candles glowing all winter. Night after night. The town would run out of candles before New Year's Eve.
I swallowed hard and quickly busied myself in the kitchen, clearing away the evening meal.
Still undone, I went to the laundry room. Sounds are muted there. I grabbed a few things to wash and as the washing machine roared to life, my tears started.
I cried. Hard.
Yes, I am ashamed. I am painfully aware that I am blessed beyond measure with loved ones, with a safe, warm house, food to eat, and that I am still able to take care of my family and our home. I give thanks, daily, for blessings upon blessings. But, I cried.
So many changes.
So many things we will never do again.
So many people already gone.
Stories still untold, trains not ridden.
A book not written.
Gardens that soon will not be tended.
Fireplaces that will not blaze a welcome.
Writers who no longer gather, warm their hands, and read their words.
Even as I asked forgiveness, the tears gushed.
It is just a silly tradition. It is just a fireplace. Its just a silly crackle and glow and flicker.
Yet, it is more. It is change. That cannot be reversed.
They say a wise woman knows when to give in.
Tomorrow I will clean out the candle place, throw away the aluminum foil, and shut the glass door.
I will find a pretty, colorful, and large arrangement to set next to a comfy pillow on the hearth.
I dried my tears and retrieved the piece of burned and charred wood from our last fire that I had carelessly tossed aside. I took it to the front rock garden and it will lie in state next to the piece of driftwood Gus and I picked up the last time we were on the beach.
We did not know it was our last time.
Those two pieces of slowly rotting wood will remind me to make an intentional effort to pay attention and cherish even the mundane things. Even through the hard days. And I will smile more.