Urs Truly is sitting in front of a fire. I am watching the flitting flames and hearing the crackling staccato of the burning wood. It is quite peaceful and I am quite relaxed. Unfortunately none if this is real: the flames are a video recording; the sonorous sounds of sizzling embers is white noise app.

I miss real fires.

When I was growing up in Michigan, our houses had proper fireplaces. Fires were seldom lit except on holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas. I suppose this is where my positive associations for fires start. My brothers and I were mesmerized by fire. I guess there is a little pyromania in most boys. Father had to supervise us lest we poke about and make a mess or singe the carpet. The warm glow of fires inside were counterposed with the cold dark snowy outside. It made a pretty picture. I especially liked either end of  the life of a fire: the inchoate blaze accelerating from one humble match and the red-grey embers of a fire in decline. I could lie for hours in front of a fire, not doing anything.

When Someone and I moved to Ann Arbor I insisted on a house with a working fireplace. I lit as many as I fancied. The first fires were on All Hallow’s Eve to commemorate the bonfires of yore. I made these using last year’s Christmas trees, which were cut and stored from last December. The living room did not contain the TV so I could sit or lie in front of the fire in peace, the only sounds were the organic ones emanating from the heath. Nothing was so blissful as watching a blizzard outside while sitting near crackling flames while drinking cocoa (snorts had not yet been discovered).

There are no working fireplaces in Arizona. My current house has an ersatz fireplace, which is behind glass,and gas-driven. You turn it on with a switch, like a lamp. There is no redolence of burning pine; no crackle; no embers. It lacks an inglenook; the TV is next to it to spoil that setting. Frankly it is too hot to use the fireplace. Ironically, when it becomes cool enough to consider turning it on, a ‘no burning’ ordinance due to the winter-associated pollution.

If I am ever to retire I want to do so in a colder climate, one with snow and certainly to a place with a proper fireplace. Meanwhile I content myself with the fireplace app.  If I close my eyes the app does a decent job evoking ardent memories. I am beginning to nod as I finish this; I feel at peace. And I don’t have to worry about closing the chute.