Place Where You Live:

Mechanicsburg, PA

Smoke in the Glen

Throughout the winter, my grandparents’ house constantly smells of wood and smoke.  It is not an unpleasant scent—not like the acidic fumes that settle in a smoker’s lungs only to be coughed back up in your eyes and mouth.  My grandparents’ smoke is natural and soothing, like incense.  Since they have a chimney, the smoke doesn’t linger in the house; it drifts up, out into the wind, and a bit of it is sucked back into the house when someone opens the door.  The smoke smells like winter.

I always associate the smell of burning wood with Christmas and snow; the bitter aroma of the birth of ash embodied the feeling of the crisp air biting at my face and the sight of the contents of lungs suspended in the bright chill of midday.

        My grandparents grow and cut their own wood.  They live in their own little forest, which they fondly nicknamed the “Wee Glen.”  There are spruces, oaks, walnut trees, hemlocks (which, as my grandma pointed out one day, is our state tree), and much more, all for burning.  Some of the trees had been used to build their house.  If a tree is lucky it is instead put in the living room, whole, so my family can decorate it.

        It wasn’t until I was around ten years old that my grandparents let me start my own fire.  As I struck the match a thrill went down my spine.  The little kitten of a fire on my match would soon be a roaring lion.  Sure enough, as I placed the stick in the fireplace, the tiny wisp of smoke grew into a blazing beacon.  The smell drifted into my face, filling my eyes with memories of this house and these woods.  As I breathed in the warm air, I saw myself in the wood, the smoke, and the fire, inhabiting the house and leaving my own mark in the great tree that is my grandparents’ home.