Thursday, February 23, 2012


Since summer, I've been fearing winter. I've feared the culmination of our tree pruning exercise. I've feared the giddy fire play of a former farm boy, passed off as a legitimate way to deal with tree detritus. "Seriously?" I say to Jay. He nods. He's sincere in his belief that this is a necessary evil, sanctioned by even the rubbish removal guy who told us to save our pennies and burn it.

I wrestle with my conscience. For more than two years I actively worked to convince friends, family, and the public that burning was BAD. All those presentations by toxicologists who told us that despite the high level of carcinogens contained in woodsmoke, we'd never break the love affair that people have with fire.

Oh the testosterone rush of a gigantic, life-threatening blaze.
When it came time to light the pile, I was a nervous wreck. Furtively surveying the surrounding foliage: would that catch on fire? Jay's full of manly assurance: It's winter. Everything's wet. This is why we're doing it now. Still, my heart's racing. There goes our cabin. And the surrounding cabins. All the way down the road the raging fire is consuming all of Lester Beach. The next day we're featured prominently in the community newspaper: "Family Burns Down Cottage Country."

While I entertain thoughts of mass destruction, Jay's busy setting brush on fire. He barely gets around it before it goes WHOOSH! A gigantic, 12-foot fireball. Licking at the top branches of a neighbouring apple tree. My heart races. My 8-year old son inches closer, oooh-ing and aaah-ing, congratulating my husband and fellow testosterone monkey, for an "epic" fire.

Meanwhile, my 10-year old daughter paces. She frets. Like her mother, she loudly announces her disapproval of a fire so big. Neighbours drop by to check and make sure we're "okay". I continue to pace. Higher and higher the fire goes.

Curiously, in between the fretting and pacing, I do take time to take some pictures. Wow, those gigantic flames make for good photos. Phew, the apple tree isn't catching fire. Oh look, the cabin is still intact. And yes, the flames are indeed dying down, as Jay predicted. I relax a little. By this time, daughter's left the crime scene and retreated inside where her safety bubble is preserved.

I feel relieved. It's all okay! The fire was rather exciting, wasn't it? Thrilling, in fact!

Then I get a message from a friend. From back in the day. A friend who, in no uncertain terms, suggests I've clearly abandoned my air quality principles of yesteryear. I hang my head in shame. He's right. I DID enjoy that near brush with death. The thrill of a heat so intense I thought I'd singe my nose hair. Is it any wonder fire's a habit we just can't break?

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