Thursday, January 21, 2010

Creating New from Old

Life’s Small Pleasures by Kristen Boyesen
Published in The Bedford Standard Jan 21, 2010

On January 1st I had not put wood into the woodstove for 23 hours. When I went to start the first fire for the New Year, I was surprised to find a few live embers. Some ancient memory instilled me with wanting to start a new fire in 2010 with coals from 2009. It took awhile, as there were only three pea-sized embers, but I managed, and soon I had a warm fire that carried over to the New Year.

This morning was January 5th. I had kept that first fire going for four days! It was now time to clear out the ashes, however so I decided to let the few remaining embers go. I scattered the glowing dots about so they could burn out.

When I returned later to clear the ashes and start a fire with matches, I discovered that one small area of the ash bed still had the tiny orange dots of glowing embers.

I carefully emptied the darkened ashes while avoiding the live embers. A few glowing dots that managed to get into the hod were placed back into the woodstove.

On January 1st, I had started with newspaper strips upon the embers, but discovered that newspaper restricts airflow and has a smothering effect. This time, I used splintery slivers of wood, toothpick size to pencil size, that were pulled from dry split firewood. These were carefully placed on the tiny embers. The pile started to glow! In my excitement, I too quickly placed a splinter on the small pile, disturbing the struggling flame trying to arise. The glow subsided. I blew on it a couple of times, but then decided to rely on the embers themselves.

I kept harvesting splinters from large hunks of firewood. The small pile over the glowing embers grew. Soon, smoke started to emerge from its midst. ("Where there is smoke, there is fire.") Larger 2 to 3-inch diameter pieces of firewood were arranged around the small smoking pile, being careful to keep the heavy wood away from the delicate cocoon of tinder I had created.

It looked impossible. How could “toothpicks and pencils” ignite the 3-inch diameter hunks of wood that were looming over the tiny not-yet-burning pile? The smoke was really spewing forth now, but still there was no flame. I added more large pieces at the edges, and closed the door.

I watched through the glass as smoke billowed out of the center, all but obliterating the small ember-glow within. I waited, smiling a small smile and feeling the fullness of impending success. Patience.

Then, whoooomph! A bright yellow flash burst forth, and the entire pile of toothpick and pencil-sized splinters was alight, licking at the larger wood chunks that arched overhead.

As I finish this writing, the large pieces of firewood have collapsed onto themselves, and are glowing red. Soon, they too, will be the embers to start a new fire.

Our lives are rich with such opportunities for discovery, invention, creativity and contemplation. One does not have to own a woodstove to discover creative interludes. Replacing worry-time, waiting-time or anxious-time with joyful contemplation helps bring your inner world into balance with your outer world.

You will smile your way through your daily hassles.

Kristen Boyesen is a resident of Bedford offering art and meditation-based classes and workshops for core creativity training and empowerment for change. She belongs to the American Holistic Medical Association Speakers Bureau, the Bedford Senior Network, and Young Audiences of Northeast Ohio. She gives rehabilitation workshops at the Brecksville VA Medical Center and is a graduate student in Art Therapy and Counseling at Ursuline College. Contact her at Kboyesen(at)


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