Once again, I rose at 4 AM, with the Fella. As he prepared to leave for work, I crouched in front of the fireplace and with a few breaths, coaxed the coals in the fireplace back to flames. This fire has been going for five days now. Five days in which the nighttime temperatures threatened to freeze the pipes (but thankfully didn’t) and the daytime temperatures never warmed up enough to thaw out the crunchy ice that pushes up the mud and leaves along the path. Five days in which the downstairs of our house remained cold enough to see your breath, this fire kept the upstairs cozy, sometimes even balmy, and the pot of water with orange peels (for the humidity and the scent) on top in constant need of refilling.
It’s the seasonal migration that happens here every year. In the summertime, the upstairs is so hot and stuffy one only comes up here to grab a change of clothes and later to sleep in front of open windows and beside an electric fan. In summertime, the downstairs is a dark, cool cave; a place of refuge from the crackling dry heat outside. We live downstairs in the summertime. Upstairs in the winter, when the first floor feels like a walk-in refrigerator and there’s literally no concern about forgetting to put away your leftovers after dinner, because your pot of chicken soup will be cold to almost-frozen in the morning.
The days are getting longer. I sit and listen to my five day fire, looking at the frost-flecked leaves outside my office window, but my mind is full of springtime plans. The materials list to make the chick brooder. The seeds to start for the next garden. Red wigglers. Baby goats. Cheese caves. The tendrils are tiny but they are growing, fast and strong, reaching for the sun.