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Love Lessons from the Cook Fire

These past months have been spent cooking over a fire. Regular and ritual, I sit by the fire every day. It’s been pretty cool, most days. I’ve had some good times sitting watching wood burn. (good times as defined by an introvert.) And I’ve noticed something — a fire is is an excellent metaphor for a love relationship. So here are my Tips to Maintain a Good Love Life – as dictated to me by the cook fire. You Need the Right Combination of Materials to Start a Fire Of course, there’s the match; which is used to light something like paper or dried corn husks that ignites easily. Paper, however, will also burn out quickly. So it needs to be combined with something else a bit more substantial like twigs to catch that flame quickly and yet hold it long enough to ignite the big pieces – the heavy lifters – the wood that’s going to assure you have enough flame to confidently cook all the parts of your meal. Without all the right parts working in concert, there will be no flame. Most likely it will just produce a lot of smoke. There’s no Fire if there’s no Contact You can’t get a flame going until at least two pieces of wood are actually touching. This crucial contact generates the heat required for a flame. Space = Oxygen = Fire The wood can’t be allowed to smother each other, each burning piece needs oxygen all around it — it’s own space and air to breathe — to keep the fire going. I think this is the most common mistake a rookie will make when starting a fire – overloading the firewood, smothering it, and killing the flame. I like to think of the burning wood as dancers – moving together yet each able to individually execute their manoeuvres with grace. It’s not much of a dance if one is atop the other, pinning them down rendering them unable to move. It’s the same with fire. Feed it as it needs more fuel and not before. Tending the Fire This business of feeding the fire as it needs more fuel is an operation requiring attentiveness. You can’t load up too much wood too soon or you will smother it. Equally, you don’t want to be too late feeding the fire, or it will go out. Tending the fire is about adjusting the parts every so often to ensure it’s burning well, move this piece to it’s side, slide that one further in, rearrange them all to maximize the burn. Small gestures, usually gentle, not requiring a heavy hand – just attentiveness. Inattentiveness to a fire leads to only one outcome – it will extinguish itself. Fire is Kinetic A fire is constantly changing. Transforming wood to ash, fiber to carbon. It’s not static, it is kinetic in the literal meaning of the word. Chemistry and physics. This is why it needs tending, to manage it’s constant state of change. One needs to anticipate the needs of the fire to successfully keep it hot. The ability to manage a fire is not innate, it is learned through observation. Ignoring a fire leads to only one outcome – it will burn out. ReKindling a Fire If your fire has gone down, low but not out, just a few small things will bring it back to its robust self. Kindling – small delicate twigs added to the heat that ignite in no time – will create the flame you need to fuel the larger more sustaining pieces of wood. If you’re down to coals, you need to invest more time and effort to start the fire up again. Kindling will need to be fanned vigorously before they will ignite. But do not despair, if there are coals, then you can get a fire going again with some focus and attention. (I hope it’s clear that fire in this context is the metaphor for love.) If you enjoyed this, let me know and I’ll see what else the cook fire might be able to share with us.

Deb Bowe Lovely thoughts, thanks for sharing. So glad to have met you and Harry on the beach that evening in Samara. Look forward to your next interesting and thoughtful post.

Originally published February 3, 2014

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