Controlled Burn

Dark night. Chill in the air. Light fog. Raging fire. This is just for me.

When I started this series on health and well-being, I had all of the elements I needed to begin to improve my lifestyle except for “something just for me.”

I didn’t realize that I was over-thinking it and I already had a brilliant “just for me.”

I was thinking it would need to be something like knitting or gardening or (racks brain for something self-focused) polishing my nails. I looked for something engrossing and active, something to draw my mind into itself, a release propelled by a focus on repetitively minding details while simultaneously minding nothing. Definitely a “do something” something just for me.

Nope. I was wrong. This time. Again.

I’ve been building fires. We bought a lot on the bayou last year with a dream home in mind. So far, all it holds is a wooden playset from a generous new neighbor and a fire pit, both at the water’s edge. The lot is one of those opportunities we recognized because we were open to it, though certainly not ready for it. It may well remain an empty lot for years to come, but it’s ours. And it is on the water.

We have spent the last nine months slowly clearing the lot of overgrown vegetation and dead trees. Raised in a family that adored backyard fire pits, I carefully saved every single scrap of wood and made sure every tree was chopped to ridiculously pedantic firewood specifications. And then promptly never built a fire.

Until New Year’s Eve. That night, I became engrossed with building a fire that could sustain itself for hours. I dug around for the perfect poking stick and proceeded to poke and poke and poke. Complete absorption into finding just the right angle for this piece to fall, the perfect amount of room for air to circulate beneath that piece. It was so thoroughly satisfying, this controlled destruction.

Since then, I’ve been building “fun fires” nearly every week. My husband and the kids come down to the lot with me and play until it gets too dark, then they scoot off together and leave me to play with fire. I can’t tell you how much I love it.

I’m throwing my head back, taking a deep breath as I focus on the elements of the fire pit evenings that lull me into a stupor of satisfaction.

It’s the silence of the night. The crackle of the wood. Pops and building pressure and releases that change the landscape. So quiet, I can hear fish jumping in the bayou. The flames consume all of the humidity in the air, so while I keep defiantly close to their heat, I keep a water bottle with me. I’m a sucker for a good story and decided to buy the new Brita Bottle with filter inside, the sponsor of this series. Filled with ice and water, I’m done, armed with my own delicious dichotomy of relentless heat and forgiving relief. A soda just wouldn’t do.

Controlled destruction.

The heat grows so strong that I walk to the dock to cool down. Stand still. Still. A pelican soars low across the water, directly in front of me, passing so close yet undisturbed by my presence as it scoops into the water to catch an unseen fish. Honestly, I still can’t believe we have pelicans in our backyard. Cranes call. Or are they herons? Egrets? I need to record which is which but the not knowing is a freedom in itself.

A log shifts, falls. I let the fire die. I spread out the embers evenly across the pit, annihilating any invading grass or scrub. Hard lines drawn around an energy source I need on a level I didn’t realize. The embers create a bright red, pulsing tapestry so hot that the bayou water boils as I douse the embers safely to sleep before returning home. It doesn’t simmer; it boils. Such a fantastic fire. So thoroughly satisfying.

This is just for me.

• • •

What is your “something just for me”? What do you do to protect and maintain it? Do you draw hard lines?

Thanks to Brita for sponsoring this ongoing campaign toward better health and well-being. This is an ongoing process for me and I genuinely enjoyed the nudge of encouragement. Change one thing at a time. I can do that.

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Article Posted 5 years Ago

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