January 16, 2012 § Leave a comment

Day 16.

I took my small poodle out at dusk this evening, everything a grayish-blue hue, the snow standing out as if under a black light. As we made our way from the tree line on one edge of the driveway, my boots clenching for a grip on the icy ground, I noticed the billow of smoke coming from the chimney. It was barely visible against the darkening sky, but with all my pride I could see it.

It took me four tries to get the fire started. Shame set in as that seemed like three too many tries for someone who grew up here. I felt like a failure as the wood refused to ignite. While I was originally excited to spend some time alone in the woods, now I couldn’t help but start a mental list of all of my city girl qualities as I tossed more kindling into the stove. I know how to hail a taxi, catch a departing subway train, and make it through the thickest crowd of tourists. On foot, I know my way around Chicago real well, and it doesn’t take me long to memorize bus routes. I quickly continued on with my list, my country girl enthusiasm dying quicker than the small flames at the bottom of the woodstove.

While I waited to see if my logs, setup like a tipi, would catch fire I took the extra kindling out of the ugly, plastic cat litter bucket that my dad used to store it in and placed the splintered, scrap pieces of wood into a lovely woven basket. I sat and watched the fire, my chair close so I could warm up – just the thought of a long night alone with non-existent fire starting skills was making me cold. I wouldn’t panic. I knew a very nice hippy only five miles away that would come to my rescue if need be. I stared into the fire, watching the dancing flames, trying to figure out what I could possibly be doing wrong. I adjusted my logs, tucked in a few more pages of newspaper, and tossed in a couple more pieces of kindling. I stopped thinking about the city and all of my city-smarts I had learned over the years. “I can be a country girl,” I thought. “I am a country girl!” And just like that, as if the flames had heard my thoughts, the logs ignited into a beautiful orange glow.

Due to my proud attitude and the absence of my parents I have kept a perfect fire burning all day long. The deer eating outside stare at me every time I step onto the back porch for more logs. They look at me as if they are whispering, “Her father would never use that much wood!” I stand each time for a moment to look at them in the eyes. I wish they wouldn’t judge. Back in the warm house I gently place another log on, now knowing exactly the right moment so as to keep the steady flames going. I relax for a bit until the hum in the stove reminds me to shut the trap. The house is so pleasantly warm I know I have almost passed my first lesson as a country girl.

Tomorrow morning, when I awake, I will learn whether I have passed this first lesson. I have yet to decide what size fire I should build before I head to bed (taking into consideration I sleep in the upstairs bedroom where the chimney passes through). But I am hopeful I will not be frigid come sunrise, and I have already made a list of more country girl things I cannot wait to learn.


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