Sunday, February 14, 2016

delicate dusting

delicate dusting
of snow on a heart-shaped log --
from dead tree to fire

Powdery snow started falling last night, five inches today by the time we make the slow drive into town for Valentine's Day brunch at ILA: Hot chocolate topped with whipped cream and cinnamon followed by triple cheese omelette served with roasted red potatoes and a biscuit. A strip of blackboard runs around the wall by the booths, with little glass cups full of colored chalk and an eraser with "Martha and Douglas" in red paint on the wooden back. While we wait for our meal, I draw a big pink heart filled with spirals. 
          Back home, I haul in another load of wood while John shovels snow from the walkway. Hands red, I sit in front of the rekindled fire in the wood stove to warm up. Staring at the mesmerizing flames, I remark that most people associate fire with the color red, but wood flames are orange or yellow, sometimes blue. John, an electrical engineer, starts talking about black-body radiation and how the spectrum of colors emitted by a hot body range from infrared to ultraviolet as the temperature increases. Yes, I've noticed that blue flames are a lot hotter than orange or yellow. But what about other colors? 
          I remember my father, a chemist, throwing "magic powder" into the fireplace to make multi-colored flames. Of course, he then had to kill the magic (or transmute it into a different kind of magic) by explaining that the powder was made of minerals that emit specific colors when heated: green for boron, blue for copper, purple for potassium. In fact, as I learned in high school chemistry class, all minerals can be identified by the colors they emit when subjected to the flame test, though you don't want to be anywhere near magnesium when it's lit!
          More childhood memories leap up with the flames in the wood stove. Cutting out heart shapes from folded red construction paper and pasting them on white paper doilies. Decorating a shoe box with pink crepe paper and red hearts, with a slot in the top for the small commercial one-sided cards with the funny pictures and sayings like "I love you Deer-ly," I'm Nuts about you," "We'd make a Peach of a Pear." Counting how many cards I got compared with the number of students in my coed class (always far fewer). Collecting tiny pastel heart-shaped sugar candies inscribed with Luv U, Smile, Be Mine.
          Strange, how Valentine's Day, a day of giving red roses, chocolates and romantic greeting cards, derived from a martyred Christian saint. Saint Valentine was probably one of two priests named Valentinus who were put to death on February 14 by Emperor Claudius in different years during the 3rd century AD. The story goes that one of the imprisoned priests wrote a letter to the jailer's daughter, signing it, "From your Valentine." The reason for his death? It seems the emperor forbade young men to marry because single men made better soldiers. But Valentine continued to marry young couples, perhaps wishing to promote sanctified procreation over war. And what did he receive for putting God before emperor? The age-old story of life on Earth: love before death. 

1 comment:

  1. A nice visit with two very good people. I liked it.