Yesterday I went walking and the cool edge of fall and the wafting smell of woodsmoke combined to create a wave of nostalgic longing in me. Woodsmoke always transports me.
It takes me back to a clearing in the woods, just at the edge of a deep ravine. A cabin stands in that clearing, surrounded by pines and spruces and one huge beech tree that leans its branches out over the ravine and the stream that runs below. Just to one side of the cabin, there’s a smoking fire pit, tended by aunts and presided over by my dad, who is decked out in a red flannel shirt and chicken-flipping tongs. Musicians and other vagabonds fill the clearing, playing banjos and mandolins and fiddles, while my mother and another woman with long hippie hair practice clog dancing on the mossy ground. I am small enough that I don’t appreciate how magical it is, but I do like the dancing, especially when my mother sweeps me up and bounces me along to the beat.
It takes me back to a farm. The barn has just been painted red and the woodstove is churning out heady smoke. It’s a school day, but a storm has knocked the power off, so we troop over to the barn to make woodstove pancakes. The bus will come all too soon, but not before I’ve eaten a pile of pancakes in funny shapes, but not animal funny shapes, because I won’t eat things that look like animals. I am seven, and that one hour of pancake breakfast seems like it will last forever.
It takes me back to a tiny cottage, deep in the woods. The windows are lit with oil lamps and tall fir trees creak in the wind outside. The woodstove generates a warmth that is almost too intense for such a small space, and my skin is hot to the touch. I am falling in love for the first time in my life, and although some day that love will burn until it scorches, in that moment it is the perfect measure of heat against my chest.
They are all such good memories, but for some reason they leave me feeling melancholy. Perhaps I just need a woodstove in my life so the all my days will be full of heady smoke, and all my memories will be tinged with it.