Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Candles in the fireplace

Fire almost always puts me in a poetic mood.  Watching a few candles in my living room on a dark summer night, or the roar in a fireplace in winter.  Even these images of warmth and comfort as I’m drawing them up in my mind seem to wrap me in a contemplative state of mind. I wrote a poem about fire once long ago, the parts I remember of it are the same today.

When I look at a fireplace, it feels devoid of life until a roaring fire gets going.  I feel that fire is life, the embers spirit, and the transformation the end, not the means.  It’s a parallel to real life.  

Even the different types of fire are representative of life and people.

Simple white candles are nothing spectacular; yet they provide a decent and quiet light. Sometimes they spurt a little, akin to a brief uprising.  Coloured candles, especially the rebellious red ones, will spurt and spit more often than white.  Once lit, candles require very little minding to keep going, but put them in a roaring fire and they disappear!  I know people who are candles.

A wood fire is more intense, but needs a hot spot between two chunks of wood to keep going.  Two logs must face each other for the fire to burn brightly, otherwise it will quickly diminish extinguishing itself after turning the wood surface to soot.  A wood fire is always beautiful but often short lived, unless more logs are added.  Maybe two logs facing each other are a couple, or possibly friends, giving each other the warmth they both need.

Embers will keep a wood fire alive, where one log may be insufficient by itself.  Embers are hot and old.  Embers come from logs that have burned brightly.  Embers are spirits of past fire keeping one log warm and lit, maybe in times when we are alone.  Even if another log is never added, embers are hot enough to keep a soft fire going for a long time.

Fuel fires are sometimes flashy, sometimes short-lived, but so very powerful.  

Briquettes, for example, are efficient embers for cooking BBQ.  Briquettes are pre-made fast moving spirits for preparing food: food is life too!  Convenient and useful, possibly like acquaintances or people around us that we need to draw upon, briefly, once in a while.  

Gas fires have two qualities:  powerful and bright.  Heat from a gas fire is intense, stable, and comes in a beautifully intense blue hue.  The underside of the BBQ burner is so very pretty as the gas escapes from a thousand tiny holes and ignites.  Gas is multi-purpose; it can generate heat, and large amounts of it, and can blaze very brightly in a lantern.  Under proper, yet simplest care, gas fires are one’s steadfast friends.

Alcohol makes for a cooler fire, with very little energy, and very little light.  But it is easy to manage as a simple bowl or glass of alcohol can be set on fire and will burn happily within it’s confines.  Alcohol is bohemian. Its flame is cloud-like and dances in the bowl. It also cannot be trusted.

Liquid fuel fires are nastiest.  They are hard to control, and require infinite care.  Some are invisible and will cause pain, heartache and terrible damage.  Some are very visible and will often cause panic.  All have proven to be useful, but they have also proven to be dangerous.  There is never anything simple about liquid fires, but they are necessary.  

These fires are also motive power for cars and aircraft, ships and trains where they are well hidden and harnessed.  Complex machinations are often required to keep them in check and useful.  Maybe liquid fires are society at large?

Liquid fuel can re-energize a waning wood fire for a very short time, yet that same fuel will utterly destroy a candle!   That’s something to think about.

My favourite fire is that which gives.  A candle lighting another gives itself yet loses nothing.  The match giving birth to that first flame is self-fulfilling when struck! The lighter gives one ready access to light and heat on a moments notice.  

Maybe lighters are our friends and parents.  They provide a little illumination when we are in the dark, guidance until we can light a candle or lantern, and that first flame to get our fires going.


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