Thankful for the glow of wood burning flames

“The joy of the open fireplace is playing with fire without being accused of playing with fire.” ― Gene Logsdon, “You Can Go Home Again: Adventures of a Contrary Life” 

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Despite the challenges imposed on family gatherings this year, I hope that Thanksgiving was blessings and good times at your house.

Thanksgiving weekend a few years ago, this space was used to opine about flames flickering in a fireplace. I described how the warmth and the fall colors outside my breakfast room window combined to inspire a holiday mood as I nurtured words into a newspaper column for the next edition. 

That same breakfast room window has again debuted picture-perfect Fall hues for my favorite time of the year with family and friends (shhh … don’t tell the holiday gathering police). Again I am crafting a column for another Thanksgiving season, and what better place to do that than by a fireplace. 

Column writing or a journalism career were neither one on my radar in 1971 when I finally accumulated enough hours to wrangle a degree in psychology and art from East Texas State University. That credit likely belongs to my reading Paul Crume’s weekly column, titled “Big D,” that appeared every day on the Dallas Morning News‘ front page for 24 years.

Crume’s best-known column was “Angels Among Us.” The last time I checked, running that piece is still a Christmas tradition for the newspaper 45 years after Crume’s death. My favorite, “Christmas Fires,” spoke to my love for the hypnotic effect of flames, something I still enjoy whether in a cozy fireplace, a backyard burn pit, or a good brush pile on a drizzly fall afternoon.

Ironically, this season’s flickering fireplace flames serve to recant opinions expressed in that column I penned a few years ago declaring my new gas logs as, “an intelligent advancement in the right direction.” I made that declaration saying, “For the first time in all my years of home ownership, I am now relaxing in front of a fire that rises from gas logs.” I rambled in glee about, “Gone are the days of buying or cutting firewood, hauling and stacking it, cleaning the fireplace and the chimney in springtime, and a smoke-filled house when I forget to open the damper.”

Honestly, making that transition to fake fire did not come easy. The gas logs were purchased before procuring a plumber to make the connection. His sobering news that installing a proper gas line to supply the logs would cost nearly three times what the logs themselves cost was a setback, to say the least. But after weeks of watching the glowing fireplace picture pasted on the cardboard box of burner-equipped ceramic timbers sidelined near the fireplace, I bit the bullet bringing fireplace flames to life as easy as turning a knob.

Ironic perhaps was my admission, “Truthfully, when considering the switch from a real fireplace, I feared missing the satisfaction of poking at glowing late-night coals and the smell of wood-burning.” In retrospect, that was probably the most accurate statement in that piece. So, out the faux logs are coming making way for the return of warmth, glow and smell of real wood burning. I’m looking forward in the weeks ahead to once again enjoying mornings reading a good book with coffee by the fireplace, afternoons of fireside naps on the couch and nights of column writing inspired by Paul Crume’s “Christmas Fires” column. Oh, and the satisfaction of poking at glowing late-night coals. I have to admit there really is something to playing with fire without being accused of playing with fire.

As the aforementioned weeks ahead pickup speed toward Christmas and the last vestiges of 2020, the “most thankful award” may be seeing this year come to an end.

But, despite the conflict, catastrophe, and confusion we’ve endured in 2020, I am thankful that the U.S.A. remains the best place on God’s green earth to live … and that I have my real fireplace back.

—Leon Aldridge

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Aldridge columns are published in these Texas newspapers: The Center Light and Champion, the Mount Pleasant Tribune,  the Rosenberg Fort Bend Herald, the Taylor Press, and the Alpine Avalanche.

© Leon Aldridge and A Story Worth Telling 2020. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Leon Aldridge and A Story Worth Telling with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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