Where I live in the South, it rarely gets cold enough to really use a fireplace if you have one. It’s not uncommon to see people in the mild winter with windows open so they can use their fireplace for a cozy evening. Admittedly, I am guilty of the same, especially around the holidays.
I can’t help it really, I love to watch a wood burning fire. The roar when it’s built up well and it’s full and warm, the loveliest shades of red, orange and yellow and the smell of the wood as it gives its last breath. I can sit for hours and watch it, consume all that makes it what it is as the flames start to slowly subside – the heat coming from it is still hot as it surrounds me even though the flames are small, the crackling quieter and it looks like it’s about to give up and die. Another log or two and again, it flares up proudly and I can watch the flames dance in victory in front of me.
Long after the flames are gone and nothing but the cool ashes remain – it’s time for clean-up. The first time I ever tried to clean my fireplace – there were more ashes and mess on me and in the living room than I ever thought has been in the fireplace itself – it was – a disaster. I learned over the years, with trial and error, the best ways to clean it up so I could start again and see the flames – feel the heat – but it took a lot of mess for me to perfect the process.
If you live in the South, you know there really isn’t a fall season in some places – it’s simply about two weeks of a transition from “Hot as Hell” and “Thank Fuck for a Break in the Heat”. So now, just a bit early, you see people getting ready cleaning chimneys and getting ready – and I am doing the same in great anticipation of the weather change that hopefully will come soon.
It occurs to me, as I begin this yearly ritual, that there have been relationships in my life that are much the same – all consuming, burning feverishly with an intensity like nothing I’ve ever known – they are, on their own terms – a beautiful disaster.
As one of these relationships has ended and now some weeks later, I am finally not afraid to sit back and reflect on it without the tears streaming that have helped extinguish the flames of destruction, I look back trying to see the choices I made that indeed made it a complete disaster. Did I see things that simply were not there? Did I push too hard? Did I not push enough?
I can see my own faults in the choices I made – even in the end, when through a fit of emotion, the door was shut in my face – I didn’t try to knock and open it again. I can see where my unspoken expectations were the fans that flamed many a passionately heated argument. I don’t take all the blame on myself – there was blame for him to take as well – some that he will recognize – some that he won’t.
But when it comes right down to it, although it seems to be the best for everyone, I will miss the rush, the warmth and heat of someone that was so close both physically and mentally, the challenge to keep what was “us” confined in some way to keep from engulfing everyone around us and the intensity of the flame that he has since extinguished.
As I clean out the fireplace to ready it for another season of flames, the memories flood me the way the ashes I brush float in the air around me and I am thankful for the season I had with them, even on the days it was too hot to handle, it provided for some short time, a warmth in my soul that I will always remember.