It’s the great tantalizer of my room. Night after night, it blankly stares back at me with a dark and cool glance. As the temperature drops outside, its siren song soars, and with each passing day I become more and more tempted to succumb to its call, to fill the dark abyss of our common room with wood, kindling and tinder, and bask in the warmth emitting from our fireplace.
But however great the temptation may be, I’ve recently grown disdainful of our fireplace. Initially, as I presume freshmen are often prone to do, I thought little of the soot-covered inlet that lay dormant on the wall. I figured that it added to the Ivy League spirit of the room, conjuring thoughts of the hallowed figures that inhabited these dormitories long ago. It even served as a repository for my shoes, backpack, dirty clothes or any number of odds and ends that needed temporary storage in our common area. In a word, I thought the fireplace was cool. Not so much anymore.
I wish that we were able to put those rare dorm room additions to good use. With thoughts of sticky, humid, unbearable summer nights behind us, I wish that we could welcome the burgeoning frigidity of winter seated around a warm and luminous fire roaring in the middle of our common room. I wish that when 2 a.m. rolls around, when our eyes grow weary from the hundreds of pages read that night, we could steal a glance away from the book, and get lost in the sparks dancing to and fro, jumping with fervor off the log and up the chimney. I wish that, on a blustery, cold night, we could unwind with our suitemates, curled up beside the fire, talking about who-knows-what into the late hours of the night.
For those of you who have not had the chance to experience it, there is something poetic about a roaring fire. It might be the colors — the bright shades of red, yellow and orange whose radiance increases as the wood burns down. Maybe it’s the historical importance of fire — the shield of protection it offered our ancestors, the fireside chats that Roosevelt used to comfort a country in panic. It may simply be the sensual symphony of the experience: The crackle of the wood, the glowing tinge of the embers and the all-encompassing heat make huddling around a fire a whole-body experience. Whatever it is, a fire evokes certain emotions, provokes certain conversations and inculcates a feeling in those who soak up its warmth that is unique to the combination of wood and flame.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m a realist. We have enough untimely false fire alarms that rouse people out of their beds at inopportune times of the night. We freshman boys should barely be trusted with doing our laundry, let alone with the responsibility of starting a fire in our room. This time of year, as the weather hovers at a comfortable temperature, our thoughts remain distant from the frozen forecasts that will soon sweep their way across campus. I know that this is not an issue that arouses tremendous fervency or demagoguery. You won’t see protests on Cross Campus, sit-ins in Commons or mass e-mail campaigns rallying support to allow the use of fire places in the dorm rooms. I get that there are those of you for whom fire doesn’t do it — either the heating systems in your rooms are sufficient, or you find solace in activities other than watching wood burn to ashes. All I’m saying is that on that dark and dreary winter night, after trudging across campus and taking refuge in our rooms, I wish we were afforded the opportunity to sit around a fire, decompress from the day that was, and, alongside our friends, enjoy the show that the flickering flames put on for the entire room.
Joel Sircus is a freshman in Trumbull College.