Saturday, November 5, 2011

First One Back to the Cabin

First One Back to the Cabin
By Jeff Davis 

I’m the first one back to the cabin, but it’s no warmer inside than outside. There’s a skim of ice on the leftover coffee, but I can feel a weak blush of heat from the stove as I walk past.

I stir the ashes, fill it with split logs, open the damper and pull a chair close. My socks are wet, and my toes are numb from the cold. Dry socks are in my duffle under the bunk, but I can already feel the waves of heat from the now crackling fire. I pull a log in front of the stove and prop my feet inches from the front of the stove.

I’m still shivering, but my toes start to tingle. Tiny pinpricks turn into painful stabs, but I know it’s because they aren’t numb anymore. The heat hits my face, and in a few minutes my skin feels, dry, tight and hot. I smell hot wool, and pull my toes, now inside steaming socks, a little farther away from the stove.

The pinpricks assail my toes; my knees and face are getting painfully hot, but my shoulders and back are still being squeezed by the cold. A small bubble of heat, centered at the stove, grows inside the cabin, but outside that bubble it is still the frozen North. A blanket over the shoulders seals me inside the bubble.

I’m finally warm enough to stop thinking about how miserably cold I am. I stare into the fire roaring in the stove and think about – nothing. I stare into the fire, and my mind is truly blank. I watch as colors move and dance, ephemeral shapes form, and then disappear. I’m relaxed, comfortable and at peace with everything.

Many times I’ve sat, just staring into a fire, feeling contented, serene, and empty, regardless of how many people are around. Sometimes thoughts race through my mind: memories, emotions, plans and dreams. Just as suddenly they are gone, replaced by a simple, empty connection with the heat and light of the fire.

I hear the others coming back to the cabin. I don’t need the blanket anymore, but the stove needs another load of wood. I fill it, close the door, and put the pot on top to boil water for coffee and cocoa. They are coming back to a warm cabin with their tales of adventure and near misses. They are glad the fire is roaring and the cabin is warm. I’m glad I had that time to myself, hot and cold at the same time, with nothing to think about except a mesmerizing dance of heat and light.

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