I am sitting in front of a fire. Not a gas fire. Not an artificial fire. Not a wildfire. But a fire in our cabin at the Alisal Guest Ranch.
We are sitting in our room on a cold, blustery day in this little, yet well-known, guest ranch, helping our friends celebrate their daughter’s wedding. It is a magnificent place, nestled in the coastal hills of California about 30 miles north of Santa Barbara.
It is Saturday afternoon. It is freezing outside. We are killing time before we have to get ready for the wedding to begin. The Alisal is a rustic, yet real world, place. Our room does not have a TV nor does it have a phone. Having said that, it does have wireless.
Pam and I are TV freaks, or at least Pam is. I go to sleep every night with the TV and light on, as Pam watches whatever show du jour has captured her attention until she falls asleep. I like to use the TV as background noise while I read or work.
We got here yesterday, and last night after enjoying ourselves at a great rehearsal dinner, we went to sleep without the TV flickering behind our eyelids. I found it refreshing. Pam played about an hour of solitaire on her iPad.
This morning, we had a nice breakfast and chatted with friends. We went back to our cabin, and made a fire. We know very little about making fires. We sort of understand the concept of kindling and draft, but the reality is that without gas, we were somewhat uncertain as how to start,
My, how the times have changed. A generation ago, everyone knew how to make a roaring fire. Most homes had wood burning fireplaces that could be used on a daily basis. Today, burning wood in a fireplace is deemed worse than burning gas in an automobile. The country is replete with Spare The Air regulations, which limit when wood can be burned and prohibit wood burning fireplaces in new construction. It will not be long before the gasoline powered motors are prohibited in new automobiles.
I love the sound of my naturally aspirated, air-cooled flat six engine in my 1989 Carrera and the sound of my naturally aspirated, flat six water cooled engine in my 2015 Cayman. Both cars feature symphonic exhaust notes that tremendously enhance the driving experience, making it much more visceral. The same cannot be said for battery powered cars, despite their surreal acceleration, as their lack of sound detracts dramatically from the experience for me.
I feel the same way about gas fireplaces. Everybody has them now. Our daughter, Shelby, and her husband, Bryan, just installed one in their house. Pam is lobbying to put one into our fireplace, too. I sat in front of Shelby’s and Bryan’s fireplace on Christmas Day. It was pretty. It threw off heat. But something was missing. Sound.
Pam and I are sitting side by side in comfortable chairs in front of the fire in our room. A real fire in a wood burning fireplace. A fire we successfully started without gas. Pam has broken down and is watching Netflix on her iPad, while I peck at the keys on my keyboard. The fire is beautiful. The heat is palpable. The smell is amazing, though we may be wearing it to the wedding. Most important is the sound. The cracking and popping of the wood, the whoosh of the air as it goes up the chimney make the experience real, not sterile.
This is an unbelievable guilty pleasure. The weather has limited our activities, but I am thoroughly relaxed and comfortable. I could have gone to the Library at the Ranch to watch NFL Wildcard Weekend. Yet, I am so much happier here. I keep looking at the clock, wishing time would pass more slowly, enabling me to spend more time this way. This is something I never do. Something I wish I could do more of at home.
I am totally in the moment. Yes, it is not politically correct. Yes, it is indulgent. But it is so satisfying. I have not just parked myself in front of a fire for years. I feel the same sense of relaxation as when I am driving my Porsches over the backroads and twisties. There is no noise from the TV in the background. I am disconnected. Sort of. And, I like it.