WORDS BY BEN DUNGAN
I used to dread winter. More specifically, I used to dread the time between the middle of January through the end of February. That’s approximately six weeks, and perhaps, the longest six weeks of the entire year.
It’s a stark difference from where we’ve been. The Christmas lights are back in their crates and bins. The luncheons are over. The parties have ended. It’s just you and the darkness.
On the surface, that’s what winter really is – dark and dreary. Even depressing at times. Christmas does an excellent job of distracting us from all that. But once the holidays are over, we can see winter for what it really is.
January can encourage isolation. It’s the way the pendulum swings after a busy December. Some call it a holiday hangover. Others call it “back to normal”.
Like I said, I used to hate winter. I used to hate this “dead period” until spring arrives. But I don’t anymore.
They say the only way out of winter is through it. If that is true, I’ve discovered the secret through the winter and it can be found in my fire pit.
It’s become my favorite cool season activity. Sure, the fire pit craze has been out for a while now, but in the last few years, I genuinely look forward to a day where I can carve out a block of time and sit outside and watch the fire burn.
I feel like Otis Redding, just without the dock and the bay. I just want to sit by the fire and waste time. But is it really a waste of time?
Novelist Marthe Troly-Curtin once said, “time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time”.
It reminds me of Augustus “Gus” McRae, the former Texas Ranger and co-owner of the Hat Creek Cattle Company from Larry McMurtry’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel Lonesome Dove. Gus took great pride in his ability to waste time. He hated to work. He preferred to hang out, play cards and tell tall tales to whoever would listen to him. In fact, he was darn right proud of the fact that he wasn’t “scared to be lazy.”
Is that what my fire pitting has become – a blatant act of laziness? Is it a waste of time? Sure, there’s always something that needs to be done, but the warmth and glow of those burning embers keep sucking me in.
I’ll admit, I don’t have much to show for my fire-pitting time except for maybe a pile of ashes. It’s about hanging out, cranking some tunes and enjoying the weather.
A fire pit is an open invitation for friends and neighbors to stop by and chat. Neighborhood kids sometimes volunteer to collect sticks and twigs to help feed the fire. Even if that doesn’t happen, you can always crack open a good book or find a ballgame to casually watch.
Or even better, you can just sit there and think, to the sounds of the crackling and popping.
There’s only one mission – and that’s to keep the fire going, just a little bit longer. The longer it stays burning, the longer I can stay outside and relax. It’s about soaking in the warmth and the glow. It’s about getting through winter one day at a time.
But ultimately, it’s about giving yourself permission to be a little lazy and waste a little time. Just like Otis and Gus.
And before you know it, spring will be here.