When I start a fire, I like to begin with narrow strips of fruitwood. The cherry wood and walnut trimmings that I keep indoors are often so smooth and beautiful that I feel embarrassed burning them, but my generous furniture maker, who lives down the street and who has made much of the handmade furniture in my house is happy to donate his leftovers, so I give myself permission to proceed. I crisscross the dry planks in a tic-tac-toe pattern on the cool floor of my pizza oven, always leaving plenty of gaps for ventilation. I fill in some of the gaps with a few dry twigs and begin layering the top of the fruitwood scraps with small, well-seasoned oak logs from my property. Now all I have to do is strike a match and ignite a couple of small, waxy cubes placed strategically around the twigs. Then…poof! The fun begins. The little flames in my oven grow and and begin to dance. For me, this is the greatest show on earth. Nothing calms me down quicker or delights me more than listening to the snap and crackle of burning twigs. I know my cheeks are turning pink as the hot smoky air swirls before my eyes and yet I can’t turn away. Yesterday, I made my first outdoor fire in five months and some of the hard anxiety I had been holding in all winter started to melt away. Valerie was setting the patio table with our hand-painted Italian pizza plates that match the color of the lilacs I cut earlier in the day. Friends were coming for supper. Finally, being home in Maine felt right.
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