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“Fire is the most tolerable third party.”

The fire is the main comfort of the camp, whether in summer or winter, and is about as ample at one season as at another. It is as well for cheerfulness as for warmth and dryness. Fire is the most tolerable third party.

- Henry David Thoreau

Outdoor fireplace

There’s something magical about a fire.

(I’m talking about the good kind, of course, that you set on purpose in a controlled environment.) As a kid, when my dad would start a fire on a cold, wintry day, I’d be drawn in like a magnet. Or maybe no different than a moth to a flame. I’d sit with my back against the screen, my black lab at my side. And I’d let that warmth soak into my bones and the feeling of utter calm envelope me.

For years, I didn’t have a wood-burning fireplace of my own. But recently, my husband and I moved from the suburbs of Washington, DC to the country. There’s a centuries-old fireplace next to our house, still standing long after the house that once contained it fell. So, we built a patio around it. When we have friends and family over, we go outside and start a fire.

And that's when something magical happens. Everyone relaxes. We huddle up. We laugh. We tell stories or debate politics. Or we just sit and let ourselves get drawn in by the flames. Regardless, there’s a pervasive feeling of peace and connection. Real connection. How and why, I have no idea. (Though sources like Live Science have some interesting ideas about that.)

It’s not so easy to find a wood-burning fireplace these days. We try to capture the essence with gas fireplaces and apps that simulate a wood fire. But I don’t think that’s what Thoreau was talking about. Where’s the warmth? The fire smell? The crackle and pop? And the inexplicable sense of being soothed, calmed, and comforted? (Well, maybe not so inexplicable, according to Discover Magazine.)

But you don’t have to have to move to the country to find a fire to sit and stare at. You can get a fire pit for under $50 these days. Plug in and Google it! And then unplug, put some wine or hot chocolate in a thermos, and warm yourself by a roaring fire.

In so many delicious ways, it feels just like (wait for it…) a hug.

Liz Ruppert is a website content strategist in the Washington, D.C. area. As a technology generation spanner, she spent many years trying to fit into the uber plugged-in world. Several anxiety attacks later, she has struck a balance between part-time web consulting work and spending time with her labradoodle, Busby Burkley; her tabby cat, Cleo; and her husband, Sweetheart.

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