Deep and crisp and even...the snow has made it's way right up to the front wall of the house, despite the wide eaves, and it crunches beneath my feet as I open the storm shutters. The sun rising in the south east is like a thumb smudge of yellow ochre on the slate grey sky, and a dust of fine snow flakes wafts on the breeze. Yuletide is ending, a new year has begun.
The cat greets me with a mewl which undulates in rhythm with his trotting steps as he leaves a dotted line of footprints in the snow. Brushing briefly against my legs, he slides past me through the front door as I take a few logs of firewood from the stack beneath the kitchen window. I knock the snow from them before I carry them into the house. Placing one of them on the chopping block on the earthen floor of the studio I split it into kindling, firstly with the heavy axe, then finer with my "nata", the Japanese hatchet. I gather up the kindling and the splinters and chips from around the chopping block, take the firewood into the living room and place it on the hearth.
I scrape the ash from yesterdays fire through the grate into the ash pit below. There are still a few embers, glowing feebly in the dim of the fire chamber, and I gather them together in the middle of the grate. After positioning a large piece of wood on each side of the fire box, I sprinkle the splinters and wood chips onto the embers between them, then fine kindling on top, thicker kindling on top of that and finally a larger piece diagonally across the whole stack. Closing the firebox, I remove the ashes into a metal scoop and take it out to the dirt floor to cool safely, leaving the ash pit door cracked slightly open to let in extra draft.
Watching through the glass of the firebox door as the embers begin to revive, the cherry red gradually turns orange and spreads into the black charcoal. The splinters begin to char, the embers glow yellow. A spark flies, the chips begin to smoke and pop. Flame suddenly spurts from a splinter and begins to spread through the chips and into the kindling, hungry, feeding, growing. The logs begin to burn and I close the ash pit door, leaving the air vent open. The rest of the family will be stirring soon. Now, I can start cooking breakfast.
The scene is set, and sometimes the scene is all we need. Each day, I take notice of the present, the little things that life presents to me. Life is made up of such moments, and the more meaningful we make those moments the richer our lives will be. It is the accumulation of these experiences and our interpretation and understanding of them that makes us who we are. Great hope and inspiration can be found in the simplest of things. Even something as mundane as lighting the fire and cleaning the ash. No matter how insignificant our efforts may seem, from those embers of hope a flame may grow, and who knows how far that flame may spread.