Bucket List #3

Metal Bucket

This is a galvanized bucket.  Light and portable and fairly sturdy.  The real benefit of this bucket it its ability not to melt if you put some hot ashes into it by accident.

You can carry coal into the sitting room for your fire in this bucket, so it doubles as a coal scuttle.  In the morning you can clean out the ashes in your grate.  Sometimes when you think the ashes are cold there are a couple of hot coals hiding in there just waiting for their chance to heat up again.  The disturbance  of cleaning out the fireplace gives them air, and they heat up again.  Anyone who has used a plastic bucket to clean out fires has come across this problem.  With this metal bucket you have no such worries.

I grew up in a house without a fire.  I suppose my parents were being ultra modern, rejecting the primitive technologies of the past.  When they built our house in Pinewood in 1966 they installed a piped gas fueled hot air ventilation heating system.  This is called a ducted warm air heating system.  Underfloor ducting carries the heated air around the house and blows it out through floor ventilators.  Instead of standing in front of a fire to warm up in winter we would sit on the ventilator.

Before going to bed as kids we would hold our pajamas over the vents and the air would blow them up and warm them.

Growing up in a house with no fireplaces has advantages.  We had the use of all four walls in every room.  We did not have to set and clean fires.  We did not have the need to clean chimneys and the problem of dealing with ash.

On the down side a fire is a very powerfully comforting feature.  There is a love of the fire programmed into our human DNA.  Mastery of the fire appears to be the skill that set man apart from all other animals.

Heat:  The fire gives you warmth.  Having a fire to keep them warm enabled humans to inhabit alpine and tundra environments.  The ability to exploit a wider range of environments helped the spread of humans and protected the species from local famines and disasters.

Safety:  Most animals fear fire.  The ability to command fire gave humans an advantage over large and dangerous predators.  On a smaller scale the smoke from fires helps drive away biting insects, offering some protection from diseases such as malaria.  On a psychological level it provides a comforting illusion of safety, and sometimes that in itself is enough for people to get by.

Food:  Once you have a fire you also have the ability to cook.  Cooking food allows you to extract more energy from a given amount of raw ingredients.  In certain circumstances cooking converts something that is poisonous into an edible and nutritious food.  Boiling can make water safe to drink and has a sterilizing effect on foods.  This ability to convert food more safely and more efficiently gave man an important advantage over other animals.

Light:  As early cave art demonstrates, primitive man used the ability to command fire to explore dark caves that were inaccessible without some form of artificial light.  A torch or a camp fire extends the day and provides more time for activities that make life easier, such as sewing clothing, flint knapping, basket making etc.

Quality of life:  A fire is also a dynamic piece of furniture.  Fire is mutable, the flames dance and change.  Long before we had television families would sit and gaze into the fire, and talk and sing and recite.  Home is the hearth as the saying goes.

Now I live in an old house, built in the 1840’s.  Originally there would have been a fireplace in every room, including the bedrooms.  It was the only way to heat a home in those days.  Over the years the fires have been replaced by central heating, and there are radiators in every room.  The only fireplace that remains is in the sitting room.

The kitchen is the beating heart of our house.  It is a place of fun and energy, noise and bustle, where all the action happens.  At a certain stage in the evening you want to begin the process of winding down, cooling down mental energy, preparing for sleep.  This transition involves the family focus moving from the kitchen to the sitting room.  Like primitive hominids we retreat to our cave and light the fire.

prehistoric-513919

 

 

 

Closing the Sale

Axe

This log burns clean and bright,
it doesn’t steam or spit,
the timber, light and dry,
was ready to be split
by lightest touch of axe.

Yes, the axe is sharp,
that’s a labour of love,
with a moistened whetstone,
and a pair of gloves
and stropped with a leather belt.

But the log was seasoned,
opening across the grain,
from a summer in the sun,
and winter ice and rain,
swelled, dried out and cracked.

I sawed that log clear,
from the branch of a sycamore
that I stored for a year,
having cut 12 months before,
in November when it’s dry.

Bitten twice by chainsaw,
with gleaming well oiled growl,
teeth filed to perfection,
take the whole tree down,
and later log it out.

The sharpening of the axe,
the oiling of the saw,
the storing of the timber,
the sun, the freeze, the thaw,
who closed the sale?

Copyright D. Clancy 2014

Happy Imbolc

Image

February 1st, St Bridgets Day, and the beginning of Spring.  Irish school kids are taught to make simple crosses from rushes to learn the story of St Bridget of Kildare.  A fascinating lady who embodies elements of the ancient pagan celtic goddess Brigid.  Feb 1st is the halfway point between the winter solstice and the spring equinox.  The “cross-quarter” days were very special in the pagan celtic calendar.  This year Imbolc fell on the 3rd of Feb.  It is a season of fertility and fecundity, a very un-Catholic thing, definitely not something you want to associate with a nun.

Her Oratory was built under an Oak, a tree sacred to the Druids.  Her monastery tended an “eternal fire” guarded for hundreds of years by 19 nuns.  A practice which was almost stamped out by the Norman bishop of Dublin, and lasted until the reformation of the church.

The cross of St Bridget looks far more like a Celtic fertility symbol to me than any facsimile of the cross of Christ.  But who knows?  Its origin is hidden by the mists of time.

Of course, you have to be careful not to confuse the Irish St Bridget with the Swedish St Brigit, she of the 15 prayers.  No relation whatsoever!

Anyway, I need a poem.  Where am I going to find a poem about springtime that embodies the concept of a Pagan Celtic Fire Goddess who inspires artistic creativity and fertility?  A fecundity of both the land and the spirit!  Tricky……..

The Enkindled Spring:  by D. H. Lawrence

This spring as it comes bursts up in bonfires green,
Wild puffing of emerald trees, and flame-filled bushes,
Thorn-blossom lifting in wreaths of smoke between
Where the wood fumes up and the watery, flickering rushes.
I am amazed at this spring, this conflagration
Of green fires lit on the soil of the earth, this blaze
Of growing, and sparks that puff in wild gyration,
Faces of people streaming across my gaze.
And I, what fountain of fire am I among
This leaping combustion of spring? My spirit is tossed
About like a shadow buffeted in the throng
Of flames, a shadow that’s gone astray, and is lost.