A Fierce Heart

Years ago, the house we lived in had an enormous King stove, about as ugly as could be with a rust-colored shield. When that stove threw off BTUs, its damper clicked like a mouse in a live trap, rattling.

I once owned a terrible round coal stove I used for wood. Its damper sometimes slipped loose, and I feared that stove would burn down the house. Eventually, that stove was donated to the scrap yard.

Now, cold as my house is around the edges, with too many doors, recycled and unweatherized windows, far-from-well-done insulation, my stove burns its mighty heart, truly keeping my girls and myself alive in these wintry nights. Of the few objects I hold most dear – my cast-iron skillet, laptop, garden shovel, knitting needles – this stove, its brass-handled door so familiar in my hand, is my dearest companion these days, place of succor.

Around our house lies sugary white, sprinkled with a wavering trail of black ash, but inside is glowing red and yellow, flames laced at the edges with blue.

….Oh, now I sing praises to a wood fire,
to the heat this smoky burning liberates,
the heat that keeps us warm all winter.
Oh, praise this primordial fire, praise heat
in its most basic form:
the blessed warmth that comes from
our old, wood burning, Round Oak stove.

– David Budbill, “Ode to Fire, Ode to Heat”

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Photo by Molly S.

By Brett Ann Stanciu

Brett Ann Stanciu lives with her two daughters in Hardwick, Vermont. Her creative nonfiction book, Unstitched: My Journey to Understand Opioid Addiction and How People and Communities Can Heal, will be published by Steerforth Press in September 2021. Her novel about rural life in Vermont, Hidden View, was published in 2015.

4 comments

  1. Indeed. Yesterday, our stove was surrounded by drying racks laden with clothes and sweet potatoes baking within. The labor to cut and haul wood but a memory.

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