#17 The Healing Power of a Fire

A Geezer memory from a few years ago:

I was content. No, not true. I was joyful. Quietly joyful.

Outside the temperature was 19 0 F. I heard a blustery wind blowing through the fir trees. I was sitting in a very tall 18th century wing chair that screened me from the slight draft of cold air from the door. The wing chair was upholstered with muslin as it patiently waited for me to acquire the significant funds to have it properly dressed in accordance with its true magnificence and value.

When last I looked through the frosty glass windows on the sides of the door, there were flurries of fine snow coming down. The day was Groundhog Day and the local groundhogs had not seen their shadow. And the legend was: a Spring would come early and the Winter of Discontent would end. But that day, winter was all pervading. Except in my wing chair whose wings and arms concentrated and focused the heat from my woodstove stoked with several fiercely burning logs of hard, black locust wood. I was joyful!

Why? If I were practical and tallied up my material accounts I should have deduced that I was miserable. From whence this gift of unexpected, and unmerited joy? I pondered this question until a slight chill came upon me that was material and not the otherworldly mist of philosophical thought. The fire had burned down and needed more wood. This was a practical matter that needed my immediate attention.

Rats! My wood-rack was empty. With difficulty caused by un-cooperative arthritis, I manipulated my arms into my work jacket, stuffed my hat onto my head stuffed my feet into my boots and pulled my work gloves onto my hands. With practical caution, I stepped out the door, into the weather and trudged to the garage where the wood was stacked. Turning on the light, my eyes gazed back and forth at my hoard.

I was joyful! There it was, the source of the heat of the fire in my wood stove. Was this the source of my unmerited joy? Well, not really. That was too weighty a question for my situation. The fire needed wood. Regretting my slothfulness that before the storm I had not brought a generous cartful of wood into the house because now the deepening snow made pushing a cart a fool’s task, I gathered a mere armful of wood and trudged back to the house.

With my free hand I turned the doorknob and opened the door. As I stepped over the threshold my bare face felt the radiated warmth from the room. Nice! I set my payload of wood into the rack, fed the fire, stripped off my weather gear, and settled again into my waiting wing chair. Joy flowed to my spirit as the warmness flowed to my body.

Back to the question, ‘What was the source of the joy?’ Let us trace it back.

As I sat in the chair the fire warmed me. But it cannot be just the heat. My house has oil heat, which is not used much these days of high oil prices. A warm house is nice but it just is not the same as the heat from my wood fired stove. So we must study the history the wood.

I thought back to last spring.  Andrew, my 13yr old grandson and I felled tree after tree after tree. There were the black locust trees. These are also useful for fence posts and also for poles to support our clothesline because they do not rot when put into the   ground.  I shared this lore with Andrew. There were hickory trees, and these could be fashioned into handles for sledgehammers and axes if we needed such an item and had less money and more time. And there were ash and maple. The ash were great because they split so easily. We discussed these subjects as we worked.

Concerning the maple trees we harvested, they were not of sufficient diameter to serve as part of our “sugar bush” which are trees suitable for tapping in February for the production of maple syrup. Andrew and I had done that one year and produced what we claimed to be the best maple syrup in the county. That was a project that gave me joy every time I had pancakes in the following year. I thought, ‘This may be a clue.’

With an almost malevolent intensity my granddaughter and my daughter-in-law heaved the cut logs into the cart of the tractor and hauled them to the garage where they were spit and stacked against the wall. An armature psychologist might suspect they were working out frustrations of work and school. I do not dare to go there.

So we must conclude that part of the joy must come from those dear to me harvesting the wood. Not the physical part of cutting and hauling, it must be the unseen spiritual part that regardless of our personal mood, we sow the seeds of love into an unseen component of the wood. It is this component that is released as the wood burns.

But we can trace these unseen properties further, to the source of the wood itself. The wood once had a life of its own. Beginning as seeds, each tree began in the ground. Seeds were covered with earth. They died and were resurrected to life. They burst from the ground with this unseen phenomenon we call life. Through the years they lived through winters and summers, storms and beautiful days with an invisible spirit of life that came from the creator of the universe that many call God. A spirit indeed!

As I sat and pondered, a very negative thought intruded the reverie. ‘Oh yeah,’ it said, ‘then how is it many people watch a fire and remain in a funk of gloom?’ Good point. Why indeed?

Defeated by this adverse thought, I just sat. The unsympathetic thought held me captive until I began to hear a whisper from deep within my being. Over and over it repeated but I could not make it out. But it persisted a little louder with each repetition until finally I discerned the voice say, ‘an attitude of gratitude is required.’

Inspired, I shouted aloud, “Thank you Lord! You are the author and the finisher of our joy!”

And the adverse voice was silenced. And an all-pervading joy transfixed my spirit. This was a demonstration of an omnipotent and omniscient power that can be appreciated in full only in person.

I have now shared this with you and there are substantial consequences. Neither of us needs again have dismay nor despair drown out the God given spirit of Joy. We can use the power of gratitude of the gifts of Love given in the past to unlock our soul from any jail.

I am now at peace, how about you?

Doug Olsen’s Author Page













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