Warmth: Memory of a Wood-Burning Stove

Going through our basement, I stumbled into an old sketchbook—it’s from when I was about 15-16, per my lovely dated signatures. One sketch was a vivid reminder of the cast-iron, wood-burning stove we’d used on vacations.

My family grew up in Kentucky, but several winters in a row, we journeyed some 11 hours up into Michigan.

After our brutal car ride, we’d stumble into a cozy cabin on the edge of Lake Huron. Once inside, per my childhood memory, we had to do two things: (1) get the water running, because it’d reek of rotten eggs for the first hour or so, and (2) get the stove fired up, because it was freezing inside.

That stove enchanted me.

The density of its metal, the way the doors creaked when opened… the smell of the fresh wood, which still evoked the forest nearby, and how the new logs nestled into the cold ashes. The orange glow once it got started, that steady flickering through the smoke-streaked glass…

I spent many hours curled near its elegant feet as the snow fell outside. I hovered in its heat, reading and dreaming and apparently—at some point—sketching. A primal, terribly human attraction to warmth possessed me in that cabin, an instinct intensified by the world outside, the field coated in soft whites, the lake and dock crystalized with ice.

I was drawn to the heart of the cabin, to the stove, as it pulsed heat through the chilled hallways like a heart forcing blood down even the thinnest, most distant of veins.

If some yellow-eyed creature the color of Merlot had appeared inside the stove, pushed the doors open to beckon… if something long-limbed and blackened had climbed from its iron lips, bid me take its sooty hand… if something faint as smoke had curled atop, only to whisper how to pronounce its name…

…I somehow suspect I’d be a story myself today, the girl who traipsed into the woods, or some other strange and haunted world, on the heels of the warmth the stove’s creature carried.

Photo of me in the cabin in the summer, about age 21 (Photo credit: Lizzie Allie, who vacationed with us one year. Our exploration of the woods nearby that year is another story…).

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