Essay — Lighting New Fires

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Image source: Robbie Sproule from Montreal, Canada via Wikimedia Commons

The other evening when temperatures in Carpenter Country dropped to chilly thirty-nine degrees, we looked at our old fireplace and wondered if we should keep it or replace it.

The old wood burner had been providing heat on long winter nights for years. It also provided smoke, fumes, dust, dirt, and ashes, all of which caused sneezing. Then there was the work of felling trees, splitting logs, storing wood, and hauling the finished product into the house.

While looking at the flames was relaxing and the heat certainly pushed back the chill in the room, we wondered if there was a way to have the good without the bad.

A shopping trip was in order.

After visiting several big box stores, we chose an electric model that would heat a 400 square foot room. The unit came with sidelights in various colors, flames in several heights, a timer, and a thermostat, and it all worked with the heater on or off.

The carpenter in the family grabbed hammer and saw and soon the new fireplace covered the front of the old fireplace. Last night, we gave it a tryout. Though it wasn’t quite like the real thing—no snap, crackle or the flinging of sparks up the chimney—flames danced in the firebox and the heater warmed the room.

So is the new fireplace an improvement? Well, no one is sneezing or jumping up every few minutes to haul in firewood…

…on the other hand, we haven’t received an electric bill yet.


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We write. Visit us in Carpenter Country, a magical place that, like our stories, is unreal but not untrue.

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