The fireplaces

Upstairs fireplace
Upstairs fireplace
Downstairs fireplace
Downstairs fireplace

FIREPLACES WERE a part of my childhood because we spent lots of time at Granny’s House. Actually, we lived at Granny’s House until I was almost 7 years old. There was a fireplace in every room save the bath.

After moving away — to Florida — we returned often, for decades.

There is something primal and savage about fire. It speaks to us, and warms and comforts us too. Before building the Hacienda we lived in a two-floor rental nearer downtown. There was a fireplace upstairs and down. The first year I lived there alone, not long after moving over the Rio Bravo, wondering what the devil?

It was very cold that first winter, and I would sit long spells with a coffee cup in the mornings in a chair placed quite close to the fire. I would watch those flames, which are fascinating if you pay sharp attention. If you are spectacularly alone, fire can become a dear friend. Like love, it warms you.

When we built the Hacienda, we told the headman, a stone mason among other things, that we wanted a huge fireplace downstairs made of stone. He did just that, but we would have preferred something even larger. I don’t recall now why we did not stop him in mid-work to get something bigger.

He was a stubborn old man.

See that chimney from the downstairs fireplace snaking up the wall toward the ceiling? It continues on through the second floor, also against the wall, providing an architectural touch with cornices on the floor above. The chimneys of both fireplaces are not inside the wall. Instead they abut the walls inside, not out.

I would have liked to have one of those chimneys that are so immense a person can stand inside or nearly, but what we have, especially downstairs, is pretty grand. We don’t use them much, however, but they’re great to admire.

When my Granny died in the 1980s, my parents moved to the Georgia farm and renovated the house. All of the fireplaces were covered, and central heat and air was installed. The ceilings were lowered. A new entrance was constructed. My parents were practical people, but I would have kept at least one fireplace.

Perhaps that one in the kitchen where I heated Coca-Colas on the hearth on cold mornings. Small Cracker kids sometimes do the craziest things.

15 thoughts on “The fireplaces”

  1. Even though I have a fireplace in my living room, it’s rarely used. In the library/office is a fireplace with gas logs, which sees more use. Still, I make a concerted effort to see how long I can go without using that. Not once last winter. I wish I’d built a fireplace in my kitchen. Now, that would be cool.

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    1. Ms. Shoes: We too rarely use the fireplaces, sometimes passing an entire year without lighting up. If I had a gas line to feed gas logs I would use them but, like so many things, I did not think of it during the construction process, and we had no architect to think for us. Installing gas lines, I discovered, can make some builders here nervous. When our Canadian neighbor at the downtown casita asked the builder to install a gas line to the living room fireplace, they were told no, just would not do it. Too dangerous! Baloney, I say.

      I wish we had built a fireplace in the bedroom here.

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  2. Felipe, you are such a complex person. Sometimes I read your articles and think this guy’s a nut (other people have told me the same). Then you write something that I find is similar to my cosmovision. When I was a toddler, about 3 or so, my family took a trip to North Carolina (from Georgia) and my older brother told me I was crying and the only thing that would calm me was to have him strike matches and let me watch the flame. I guess we both have a little pyromaniac in us. Have a nice day, amigo.

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    1. Señor Mystic: I enjoy fire. About 15 years ago, in Texas, I walked barefoot across a bed of fiery coals. It was about six feet across, and I was not burnt. Fire is a funny thing.

      And yes, I am a nut.

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  3. You and Dick Nixon. When he was president, Nixon would turn up the air conditioner in the summer and have a fire built in the fireplace. He said he found it comforting. I understand the love both of you have for fireplaces. Funny enough, you will not find one in the houses here.

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    1. Señor Cotton: I recall reading that about Tricky Dick, and I understand his fire desires. I imagine that were I king of the world, I too would want a fire going 24-7 even if it required an air-conditioner to make it balance out. Of course, there where you live in the loco tropics, one would never require a fire. Pity.

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  4. Felipe,
    A blog like today’s on fireplaces and other musings of life in Mexico enables us NOB’s to share your insight and humanity. You have a true talent with the written word, and pictures, but your rants about the politics of the USA are really disturbing and share many similarities to radical Islamist rhetoric. I don’t know how you rationalize/reconcile your glowing reports and positive pronouncements about being a Mexican citizen with the negative bile you spew about the USA political scene.

    If I could make a suggestion:
    You have blogged previously under several titles. Why not separate your Mexican blog from your anti-Obama rants and create separate blogs? Your audience could then choose to participate in your observations.

    By the way, I’m not a Democrat, collectivist or even American, but I do appreciate your comments on Mexico and miss your fictional stories.
    Regards.
    The Old Gringo

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    1. Gringo51: Interesting comment, and I appreciate it, both the positive and the negative.

      A number of things: 1. I don’t rant, though I understand that those who strongly disagree with some of my opinions see it that way. However, what I put here now and then are polemics, not rants. I addressed this issue a couple of years ago.

      https://unseenmoon.wordpress.com/2012/09/17/rant-versus-polemic/

      2. And I certainly do not spew bile. Obviously, you are a fan of Barry. Condolences. His poll numbers are around 40 percent now, occasionally dipping into the 30s, so the majority of Americans have turned against him. Some merely think he’s not an effective president. I, of course, grade him far, far worse.

      3. As for having more than one website (I’m not a fan of the word “blog.”), I have done that in the past, and grew weary of it, which is why I decided on this website that I label Fact, Fiction and Opinion Stirred in an Odd Pot.

      The operative phrase is Odd Pot.

      It’s my catch-all, a place I put whatever comes to mind. As for the fictional stuff, it is what I prefer to write, more even than polemics against Barry. The fiction simply comes to me, the basic ideas, out of the blue. They haven’t been coming much lately. I hope they have not abandoned me for good, but who knows?

      Thanks again for the comment, even if this post about fireplaces is an unusual spot for it. Feel free to chime in again. This appears to be your first comment.

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  5. When I lived in Oregon I lived in an old farmhouse that had two chimneys, but only one fireplace. The fireplace did not have a functional damper and lost more heat than it produced.

    I had a large woodstove built from an old fuel oil tank and hooked it up to the extra chimney between the kitchen and the living room. It worked very well and kept me toasty all winter.

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    1. Andrés: Doesn’t everybody in Oregon live just like that? I think so. However, I don’t quite understand why there were the two chimneys and just one fireplace.That would be impossible in Mexico since fireplaces are called chimneys, the same word, chimenea.

      I’ve never been in Oregon.

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      1. Felipe: I didn’t realize at the time I was living in a cliché. However, the house was on the requisite five acres and the property had a very old apple and pear orchard. It most likely was an original pioneer home that had been added onto for generations.

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  6. We had an indoor wood stove in our Canada place when we bought it. It was huge and took up lots of floor space in the living area. We removed it and installed in its place a black gas-fired stove-type heater (like a Franklin stove with a glass front) with ceramic logs. It stands on a floor pad next to an embossed tin wall with the chimney up through the ceiling to the outside. I love it. No trouble and does a dandy job of heating the space for the less-cold times we are there. Canadian neighbors feel the same negative way about compressed gas for heat though they will use stinky, dirty oil-fired furnaces!

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    1. Carole: That setup sounds ideal and beautiful. I wish I had something like that. I guess I could were I willing to put up the effort and money.

      As for fear of gas lines, heck, I remember gas lines to each room in many places I’ve lived. Old houses, of course. New Orleans for one. It was just how you got heat into your house, and if it ever killed anyone, it was rare, and sometimes intentional.

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  7. Here in Arizona, wood is more expensive than gas. But it wasn’t always that way. My mother had an old wood stove from Chihuahua that heated the house. My father was a carpenter and, at the end of the day, he cleaned up all of the scraps from the job site.

    I now have that old stove on my patio. We use it to burn documents.
    For what it is worth, they are still making that stove using the old molds.

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