January 25, 2003

Hope Runs Eternal ~ Part One

Or, The Case of the Hot Fudge Fireplace

It's all about maintaining body heat. Food. Clothing. Shelter. In the end, our reason for existence, he thought in his more Spockian moments long ago, is nothing more than getting these three basic needs met, toward the common end of keeping a body warm. Food fuels the internal cellular forges that produce heat as a byproduct of giving our muscles and brains the energy to get up and go to work. We work to buy clothing that cloaks us in a heat-trapping shell to help retain the cell's warm glow. We work with the energy provided by our cells, maintained in our shell of heat-retaining cloth so that we can pay for a house in which we are sheltered from the elements that would take from us this precious internal fire that allows us to work...and so on. The rat race is about body heat, he concluded.

Fred thought these thoughts as he sat eating his Corn Flakes with his hands and face stiff with the cold, his breath coursing out in a blue vapor, a microcosm of the angry blue blizzard just outside the window of their first house in Virginia after leaving the tropics of Alabama. He pondered the importance of warmth as he ate cold cereal while sitting on the radiator that gave up a pathetic and morbid heat like a recently deceased body that is not quite cold yet. This was the warmest place in their new old house, and it became apparent during that very bowl of Corn Flakes that the 'shelter' part of the body heat equation was wanting in the worst way, and he would have to 'do something' to keep his young family warm.

The exact form that that something would take, he did not know. He had never owned a house before. And he had never been this cold inside of a house before, and it seemed obvious two things were needed: 1) get way more heat into the house and 2) take measures to keep heat from leaving the house the instant it was produced. The old house had three fireplaces, so some form of wood heat was a possibility. There was the beginning of a plan.

Within a week, he was testing the heft of a new 48" bow saw and had signed up for a free permit from the National Forest for cutting 'down and dead' wood. A small and ragged pile of punky pine, pithy poplar and porous rotten oak soon appeared in the back yard. They would burn this 'free' wood in the large stone fireplace in the front room, next to the bun-warming radiator. Life indoors would come out of the freezer, and vapour from one's morning breath would soon be no more than an aging mental scar in their shared memory.

But it soon became evident that, while the small fire of wood scraps in the fireplace was great for toasting marshmallows, warming hands and casting cold but friendly flickering shadows around the open spaces of the old house, the maw of the fireplace opening was like a cavernous sucking mouth, exhaling more heat from the house than the pitiful little fire could radiate into it. The fireplace was not going to be the pathway to warm feet that they were looking for, after all.

to be continued... READ PART TWO

Posted by fred1st at January 25, 2003 06:13 AM | TrackBack

The first house I ever owned was a little one bedroom shack out in Flat Creek - absolutely no insulation! We heated it with a woodstove vented to a fireplace in the bedroom with a stockpile of wood cut off the small acreage. Needless to say, the bedroom was the only warm room in the house. I remember hanging heavy quilts over the open doorways into the other rooms to keep the heat contained. Worst of all, the chimney would catch on fire (sometimes in the middle of the night) and we'd have to fill buckets of water, climb the roof and pour water down the chimney. OMG what a mess!!! I never did get much sleep those days....

Posted by: deb at January 25, 2003 10:07 AM

That's a really intriguing theory, Fred . . . the idea that we all have these little interior pilot lights that must be kept lit . . . a furnace that must be kept going . . . because when we die, we turn cold. Hmmm. Looking forward to the subsequent installments! :)

Posted by: Artichoke Heart at January 25, 2003 12:49 PM

I think you're right. We all do have that inner thermostat....set for a constant comfort zone.

Of course, I'm still waiting for more references to chocolate/fudge. One. Track. Mind.

Posted by: Da Goddess at January 26, 2003 06:49 AM

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