A fireside-even if only in the heart

I love the picture of a warm fireside.

warm and cozy fireplace

I am a cold climate person… was born and lived with cold winters all my life. One of the things that freezing temperatures highlight is the comfort of a fireplace. Whether it includes the view of the fire or not, radiant heat of a real fire is supremely cozy and enjoyable.
We borrow that feeling when thinking of building relationships with others: the fireside chat.  Or we picture the security we feel when sitting by a warm fire while the cruel weather wails and blows outside our window.

The Fireside Chat

It is a page of features and descriptions highlighting my work online for the past decade and more. Sometimes it is hard to believe that I have been writing and contributing to the worldwide web for that long.

I have shared myself, warts and all, online and during the process managed to make friendships with people who I have a genuine affection for. I suppose we doubt that this is possible, or as real as “in person” relationships, but I am reminded of those of Victorian times correspondence. Or more recently, of those we were “penpals” with in the not so distant era of my childhood.

It is different when relating long distance, but no less warm.

I don’t think it is better, nor can it replace our physical relationships of family and friends, but I recognize its reality and importance. 

Mantles, The Vestiges of a Hearth

I have always enjoyed the look of a fireplace, and in my youth ( during the fifties and sixties) we usually had the fireplace without the fire. Usually a defunct gas fireplace that was no longer in use with a very decorative architectural element of a mantled opening in the wall. We might have had a picture or mirror overhead; and always had decorative objects on the mantle itself.

It was a strange thing to have the shell of what was once the center of a room, but no longer the use or the warmth of it.

Then, the Fire, but not the Mantle

After the energy crisis of the seventies, I had woodburning stoves. These are energy efficient fireplaces that are closed, so you don’t see the fire and they have no mantles.

The decoration is gone, but the substance of the fire is magnified for a delightful radiant heat experience that is more and more desirable as the cold of winter rages outdoors. 

Fitting a Woodburner into an Old Gas Fireplace

The details on how we did this was as follows:

  • First we hired an expert in Rumford fireplaces. He rebuilt the inner part of the chimney to accomodate a wood fire.
  • We lined the chimney with a chimney pipe for the next step.
  • We then purchased an airtight woodburning stove. This was connected to the inner chimney pipe.

This stove had glass inserts to view the fire, but was rather small. It provided wonderful supplemental heat and made a precedent for the large stove that is the primary heat for our present home.

Nothing feels better on chilly days than to stand close to the comfort that emanates from its iron body to your fleshly one.

I do miss the mantle. It graces a room in a way that is hard to replicate otherwise. But given the choice of necessity, I am content to do without, so as to have the real heating properties of a stove. A fireplace, even with a crackling fire is often too drafty to provide needed warmth. It is more a psychological enjoyment of the sight of the fire, which is a delight to the eye without any benefit to the bones.

Rambling On To An Eventual Point

Loosely, I am celebrating creature comforts and taking pleasure in simple things. Just as loosely, I am following a metaphor to our relationships in life. 

We build our relationships around what we believe we need. They can be culturally constructed in ways that might derive from necessity or perhaps are gutted by social traditions. Experience sometimes teaches us their value or the way in which they must change.

At times we may even believe we no longer need them as a central focus for our life. I wonder, though, whether the fireside pictures for us the wisdom or folly of our perceptions?