I love winter. Footy, hot chocolates, pies, fires, mud, my doona. And I really like the long weekend, y’know, the one that celebrates the Queen’s birthday. I don’t know if it’s actually the Queen’s real birthday… it seems a bit weird that she has her birthday on the same weekend every year… but anyway, it’s cool to get an extra day added to the weekend to hang out.
My family always goes somewhere fun for the long weekend. Mum calls it ‘the last hurrah’ before winter, and dad just loves any excuse to bring out the fishing rod and wear his boots. It always takes ages to pack the car though, which is the only bummer about going away. We seem to need so much, even though we’re only going for a few days. Mum constantly fusses about having enough warm clothes, but then also packs all our hats in case it’s sunny.
This last long weekend we went to a small cabin in a forest, about 2 hours from my house. There were lots of other cabins around but not many people. I wonder why you wouldn’t want to go there on a long weekend? It is such a cool place. There’s a tennis court, a playground, and a swimming pool, and a nice old horse called Peggy who was in a paddock just a little way away from our cabin. There were heaps of really tall trees surrounding the cabins too – kind of like we were hidden inside a forest. All you could hear were birds and the wind. It was really quiet and peaceful.
Once we’d set ourselves up, and everything was unpacked from the car, Mum spent time fiddling around inside making beds and sorting out the food, and Dad and I set to work finding firewood. I really love making fires. I don’t know why, but I love that feeling when the tiny spark takes hold of the paper and the twigs and the flames burst into the sky.
Building the fire’s teepee is always my job. I’ve got it down pat now. I twist two bits of newspaper into bow tie shapes, then cross them over each other. I then get the smallest twigs I can find and break them until they’re all about the same length, and then I carefully put them on top of the newspaper in the shape of a teepee. We talked a lot about teepees at school last year because my teacher had an American Indian grandfather. They’re different to Indian Indians, like from the real India. There was lots of confusion about that one, especially by Johnno, who kept saying that Soumya, the Indian girl in my class, must live in a teepee, and she had to say about a thousand times that she did NOT live in a teepee and that she was from India, not America. So anyway, the way the American Indians make their teepees is really interesting. They use skinned animals – I think buffalo, and it’s called ‘hide’ – and then they drape the skin over long poles that are tied together in a kind of triangle shape. Apparently the skin is really good at keeping out the bad weather, which I suppose makes sense because buffalo don’t wear clothes and they seem to be just fine in the bad weather.
So, once the twig teepee is made in the grate, I get the next-size-up wood called kindling. It has to be really dry and about as thick as 3 of my fingers strapped together, Dad says. I put these over top of the twig teepee and then it’s time – time for Dad to strike the match. (He said I can do that bit when I’m 12, but only with supervision. I can’t wait. ) I love the smell of the match just as it bursts into flames and the whoosh that happens when the twigs and kindling catch fire. It’s such a cool sound and smell and then feeling.
I could stare into a fire for ages if I wanted to. I sort of disappear into another world. I see shapes in the flames, mostly animals, and I make up stories about where the sparks go to when they shoot up the chimney or into the sky (depending on whether we’re having a fire inside or outside). I love watching as a huge log catches fire, sometimes turning the flames blue, and then glowing orange and red as it gets really hot.
Dad likes to stare at the fire too. Sometimes I catch him with a weird look on his face, like he’s thinking about something funny or something scary or something intriguing. It’s like a whole story is going on in his head too. And then I’ll ask him something and he doesn’t seem to hear me. So I have to nudge him to get his attention, and he kind of snaps back to reality and usually pretends he did hear me in the first place.
Mum doesn’t really get it. She wonders why we don’t go off and ‘do something’ once the fire is lit. She doesn’t get that you need to keep an eye on it and protect it until it’s really truly alight. She doesn’t get that feeling of looking after it, and then getting lost in the flame animal stories.
It’s pretty much my happiest feeling. The warmth from the actual fire on my skin, and the warmth inside my body when I stare at the fire. I kind of disappear into another world, and everything that’s hard or bad or annoying in this world fades away. I think Dad must have the same feeling as me. We’re kind of alone in our heads but we’re right next to each other in our bodies. It’s pretty great.
(Relaxation, p.65, Imagination, p.41, Now, p.54, Creativity, p.21 – A for Attitude)