That Ancient Ground


Ellen Moser



I returned to the old white house by the sea in June, six months after my mother had died.


The smell of mold was sudden and strong when I opened the door, but so was the sense of expectancy. My mother had been carried off to the hospital by ambulance one morning late in the fall but had clearly intended to return: Her worn brown purse still hung from the knob of a tall-backed living room chair, where she had left it.

Opening closets and drawers, I soon understood that the purse was all that neighbors and cousins had left of my mother’s clothes. I placed myself upon the rickety chair, turned slightly, and took the pocketbook down. Clicking open the clasp, I peered inside the purse for several moments, studying its contents as intently as I study yellow family photos, hoping they will yield the answers to old personal mysteries.

Her purse contained two dollar bills, which sat in a plain white envelope, a small black comb, a box of cough drops, and a small tin of aspirins. I opened the zipper and found a tiny white button and a slip of paper with a local telephone number scribbled on it.

Where were the tub of red rouge and the Limoges-backed pocket mirror? And where was the blue tube of lipstick, which my mother had always carried with her? I searched frantically through the objects in the purse and then, suddenly, understood what neighbors had told me: At the end, my mother had grown thin, emaciated – “Greatly changed,” they had said. “We could hardly know her anymore.”

I imagined my mother the way she must have looked during the final months; saw her becoming neutered – more and more neutered – each day. I pictured the wonderful breasts shriveling up, receding back inside her; I envisioned the face puckering and shrinking until rouge and lipstick no longer had any use but to fill the endless networks of wrinkles and hollows upon her lips and cheeks….

I walked to the bathroom and opened the medicine chest, but all I could find were half-used vials of prescription drugs. I turned from the dusty shelves, and an old white washcloth, placed across the bathtub faucets, caught my eye.

When I was a little girl, I used to lie in that bathtub with a similar washcloth, draping it across my empty chest, pretending it was a strapless evening gown. “How beautiful you are,” a faceless male voice would say. “How especially lovely you look tonight, Emily.”

Other times I would pin a piece of gold-sequined material across the front of my shirt. “That came from the dress I wore the night I met Daddy,” my mother would say….Where was that old piece of fabric? I wondered. I knew – I knew – perhaps the neighbors had not foraged through the basement; perhaps it was still there.

I walked quickly to the kitchen door and disconnected the small hook from its eye. I went down the flight of wooden stairs and stepped upon the cold pavement floor with the same awe I had always felt as a child: maybe there was an Indian burial ground beneath the hard floor; perhaps age-old spirits surrounded me, as I stood and listened to the silence and watched a beam of light come in from the small grated window above.

One time when I was about ten I looked through the old drawers down here, searching for a doll. My hands touched a box in the semi-darkness of the drawer, fumbled to lift the lid, and then felt a mass of cold, dry tentacles. I screamed, backed away, and then dared myself to look inside the box. After a while, I finally did.

It was just an old potato with all the Mr. Potato Head pieces – eyes, ears, little pipe – stuck into it. Mr. Potato Head had sprouted roots and taken on a life of its own.

Now, half-afraid of what I might find, I tugged open the same brown dresser drawers, searching for the sequined rectangle of material. In the bottom of my grandmother’s bureau I found it: gold mesh fabric covered with big golden sequins.

I clutched the material to my chest, surprised at how small the piece of cloth really was. I had always pretended that there were breasts beneath the sequins; had always been disappointed afterwards at the flatness, at the reality, of my body.

Looking down now at the full breasts that rose and fell beneath the gold, I was almost surprised. “A woman now,” I said out loud. “A woman.”

I put the fabric away, wondered briefly again about the spirits, and then fled up the peeling, creaking steps.


I went to the beach every day.


If I were a painter, I would have made gentle pictures of the impressionistic morning skies and sketchy portraits of the gulls standing, in perfect formation, upon the jetty that rose out of the sea. I would have painted the feasts of seaweed and fish that washed up at the shore; I would have captured the darkness that flowed upwards out of the waves and spread into the sky before a heavy rain.

I sat for long hours, observing. I walked for many hours, thinking.

Once, the harsh cry of a bird stopped me short, and I remembered the nightmares that had plagued me during my junior year at college, some months after my father’s sudden death.

Each night I would wake up screaming, unable to remember what I had dreamed. Then, after this had gone on for a few weeks, I would have daytime episodes of hysteria – screaming, crying, and wild panic – without any apparent cause.

I saw several psychiatrists, but the dreams and hysteria continued. Finally I consulted a hypnotherapist, who convinced me that I could only reach my unconscious source of pain through hypnosis.

After I had come back from the trance, the therapist asked me to sit opposite him, as he took his seat behind his big mahogany desk.

“You were an abused child,” he said, delivering the diagnosis carefully, without emotion.

“What?” I asked, confused.

“It only happened nine or ten times,” he continued, “so the memories have been able to remain hidden for so long. But there apparently were occasions when your father would put you across his lap and beat you, while your mother would hold you down.”

Then the therapist laid down his pipe and looked directly at me.

“Were you close to your father?” he asked.

“For a while, yes,” I said, “until I was about five or six. Then I began to dislike him a lot.”

“You told me while you were still under that the beatings occurred when you were five or six. I would seem that you never forgave your parents.”

In the days that followed, the hysteria and nightmares gave way to a dull, lifeless depression. I felt controlled by the damp and moldy inner workings of my mind, by a Mr. Potato Head of the spirit that sent endless tentacles out and out of itself, strangling the part of me that was sane.

“I want to be hospitalized,” I told the therapist. “I’m not functioning anymore.”

“Try to come to some terms with your feelings about your childhood, Emily,” he said. “You’ve already been victimized by what has happened. Don’t victimize yourself even more.”

Now I sat at the beach ten years later, remembering the good times. My father stepped here; my mother stepped there, I told myself, looking around. I dipped my hand into their buried footprints and held the sand in my palm; then I watched the sand fall, bit by bit, through the small cracks in-between my fingers, until all the sand was gone.

I walked down to the end of the beach almost every day, to the point where the ocean narrowed to form an inlet. I liked to sit on one of the craggy old rocks and pick small snails from underneath, feeling the pull of suction, which resisted my own tug.

I also liked to look at the big brick house that had always been my favorite. It had a large porch, which faced the ocean, and a carefully planned garden, dense at that time of year with greenery. Jutting out from all of the shrubs was a tree made out of metal. The tree had been cut from a rectangular piece of sheet metal, which stood upright about two feet behind it, and slightly to its right.

One day I lay in the sand, halfway between the sculpture and the rocks, my face open to the sun. Not far from me, a man sat on a beach chair, reading a book and glancing over at me every now and then.

I knew the man from somewhere, but I couldn’t quite place him. He had dark hair and solid features, and he must have been in his early forties. When he stood up, I saw that he was only a few inches taller than I was, but his shoulders were wide, and the set of his legs was steady and strong.


Later, back in my old room at home, I followed a hunch and took my high school yearbook down from the shelf.


I flipped through the pages to the back and found the pictures of the teachers. Moving from one column to the next, I found the man I had just seen on the beach. His name was David Farrow, and he had been a teacher of English.

Farrow had not changed much. The picture showed the same dark, intense eyes and determined mouth I had seen on the beach that day.

Walking back to the bookshelf, I caught sight of my own face in the mirror. The late afternoon light was odd, and, moving closer to the glass, I saw myself in strange perspective. Traces of scars from long-gone acne became visible along my cheek; where the cheek ended, vague networks of wrinkles radiated from the corner of my eye.

I felt suddenly dizzy, poised precariously between the girl I had been and the old woman I would become. I searched in the mirror for the face that I could locate as belonging to me at that moment in time, but my features became distorted and strange as I stared.

I thought of Farrow’s square shoulders and solid arms, and then I looked down at my own arms, which were clutching the wall in front of me and trembling visibly.

When I looked up at the mirror again, I saw that I had begun to cry.


A few days later, Farrow came over to me at the beach.


“I think I finally figured out who you are,” he said. “I’m David Farrow, a teacher at Lincoln High School. It’s nice to see you again, Emily.”

I smiled slightly and looked up at him over the top of my dark glasses.

“Mind if I sit down?” he asked.

“No,” I said, moving over and making room for him on the blanket.

“So what have you been doing?” David asked, after he had sat down beside me. “And where are the volumes of poetry? All the English teachers at Lincoln knew about you. You were a very promising poet, Emily.”

“I stopped writing,” I said.


“I found some other interests.”

“Like what?” David Farrow asked.

“I’m a sociologist.”

“Oh? What do sociologists do?”

“I taught in a university in Dallas for a few years and then spent last year teaching in London. I just got back.”

“How come you’re here?” David wanted to know.

“My mother died in December, while I was in London -”

“Ah, yes. A brain tumor, was it? I think I heard some talk.”

I nodded my head silently and watched a small sailboat cross my field of vision.

“I’m sorry,” David said.

I nodded my head again and looked down at the sand at my feet.

“And you’ve stayed at Lincoln all these years?” I asked. “People used to say you were a wonderful teacher – too good to stay.”

David laughed. “I manage to remain entertained. “I’ve been chairman of the English department for the last ten years, and I’ve done some serious writing.”

“Like what?”

“I’ve published some stories, and I’m working on a novel now.”

“That’s more what I’d expect.”

“So how long will you be in New York?” David asked.

“I’m on leave for the year.”

“Are you married, Emily?”

“No. Are you?”

“I’m divorced,” he said. “And now all of the required questions have been asked and answered.”

I smiled and took off my sunglasses. “So now what?” I asked, turning my head to look at David’s face.

“Now I can ask you to have dinner with me tonight. Will you accept?”

“Sure,” I said. “Why not?”


We had dinner at a local restaurant and then  went to David Farrow’s house, which faced the sea.


What I would remember later was the warm, gentle light that filled his living room and the immediate fear that once I stepped inside the glow I would want to stay among the books and the plants and the records and the light forever.

“Sit down for a minute before we go out to the porch,” David told me. “I want to read something to you.”

David reached up to the top of one of the bookshelves that lined his walls and took down a thin journal. He turned some pages, sat down opposite me, and slowly read a poem I had written for the high school magazine twelve years earlier.

After he had finished, I got up and walked to the shelf. “So you save all these old magazines, David? Whatever for?”

“Don’t pretend you haven’t  just heard something of value, Emily,” David said gently.

I shrugged my shoulders in response and picked up a record that was on top of the phonograph.

“Those were very fine words and cadences for a young girl,” David continued. “Why did the girl stop making poems?”

“She became a sociologist instead,” I said, returning to the couch.

“Sociologists don’t have to deal much with feelings, I guess. Is that it?”

“Not true, David. We just deal with them a little more objectively than poets do, that’s all.”

“Okay, I’ll accept that. Would you like to go outside now?”

We got up and walked through the house to the back porch. I sat on an old cushioned swing, and David sat down beside me.

There was a very thin sliver of moon, so the night was dark. Fireflies appeared every now and then in the air before us, and the red light of the buoy blinked on and off in the ocean ahead.

“What was London like?” David asked.

“Dank and lonely.”

“And what is Dallas like?”

“Hot and lonely.”

“Are you going back next year, Emily?”

“I don’t know. Probably. I still have a job waiting there for me.”

We sat quietly for some minutes, and I watched the lights of a steamer pass by and listened to the sound of the buoy’s bell.

“You never did date much in high school, did you?” David asked, breaking the silence.

“No, I didn’t date at all.”

“Pity. You were a very nice girl.”

I looked down at David’s arm, which rested beside my leg. I watched the large veins on the underside of the arm and followed the curve of the wrist and of his palm with my eyes.

“You’re still very nice, Emily. You have very beautiful eyes.”

I turned then to look at David, who was watching me intently. His own dark eyes were very close to me, and I could hear the sound of his breathing, which was growing as quick as the sound of the wind blowing through the leaves above us.

David leaned his head down a little and kissed me, and then he held me for a very long time and kissed me again.

Later, at two in the morning, he walked me back home. We talked for a few minutes, and then David said good-night. After he had gone, I stood on my empty porch and watched him walk down the street, turn the corner, and, finally, disappear.

I waited ten or fifteen minutes and then went inside. I went to the closet and took down a blanket, walked quickly back to the door, locked it behind me, and made my way to the beach.

When I was there, I stepped slowly through the cool night sand and chose a spot in-between the rocks and the house with the sculpture of the tree. I spread the blanket on the sand and crawled on top of it, shivering slightly. I heard the sound of a far-off foghorn, buried my head in the crook of my arm, and fell asleep, listening to the waves and the beating of my heart.


I saw David very often during the month of July;  by the beginning of August, we had settled into the routine of lovers.


In the early mornings, David would bring his typewriter with him to the sand and work on his novel, while I would read. Towards noon we would swim, and later we would search the shore for mussels and crabs, which we would collect for our evening meal. Afterwards, we would walk and we would talk, stopping sometimes to fish; towards evening we would go back David’s house, cook our supper, and spend the night making love.

Many times we made love on the porch, under the sky. I would lie beneath David and watch his broad shoulders move over me, and I would watch his closed eyes and wish I could know what he saw inside his head. I would close my own eyes and listen to the sea, and my body would move in spite of me under David’s. At the end, I would turn my head and tuck my cheek under his chest, and I’d feel the force and movement of him as he would come inside me.

Sometimes, when the nights were cool, we would make love in David’s bed. Afterwards I would pull the blanket up to my chin and watch the pattern that the street light, filtering through the leaves on the big tree outside the window, would make on my covered  chest. The dancing little circles of light would always remind me of my mother’s rectangle of golden sequins, and I would feel like a counterfeit woman, someone playing at sex with David, occupying a piece of his bed only until the real woman would arrive and take her rightful place beside him.

And often at such times David would sense my mood and turn in the bed to watch me, and he’d take down the blanket and hold my breasts in his hands. I would look down in wonder at the flesh between his fingers, unable to identify it as my own.

Then one night late in August I sat beside David in his living room, immersed in the gentle light.

“It makes me happy to see you like this,” David said, watching my profile.

“Like what?”

“Just sitting here, staring at the books and listening to the music. It makes me hope you might start writing poems again.”

I looked down at David’s hand and touched his fingers. “I don’t think I will. You’re the creator here.”

“Nonsense, Emily. There’s a great deal inside you, but it’s still frozen with grief.”

“I don’t think that’s true, David.”

“Such denial. It frightens me sometimes.”

“I never loved my mother enough to grieve for her now,” I said.

“If that’s really the way you feel, then you’ll have to deal with the anger someday.”

“I dealt with it years ago.”

“But you’re still part of that family, you know.”

“What family?” I asked. “The one that doesn’t exist anymore?”

“Yes, that one.”

“Wonderful,” I said.

“Think of the sculpture at the beach, Emmy. The tree is cut out of the big piece of sheet metal; it remains a part of that mold.”


“In part, but only in part. A tree is an organic structure, you know. The key is to open one’s self to change.”

I shrugged my shoulders and walked over to the window. I could feel the cool night air blowing in from the sea, and I shivered slightly.

“School will start soon, David,” I said.

“Yes. About two more weeks.”

“Are you excited?”

“I’m always excited when a new school year begins. Aren’t you?”

“I guess.”

I stood looking out the window for a while, and then I heard the sound of movement behind me. I turned and looked questioningly at David.

“I’ll be back in a minute, Emily,” he said. “I just thought of something I need to do.”

David left the room and went into his study, and soon I could hear the sound of typing.

I lay down on the couch, which was still warm from David’s body, and closed my eyes. I listened to the rhythm of the typewriter, imagining David’s dark eyes staring at his pages; I thought of his fingers finding the correct keys, pressing out the letters, and creating words, pictures, and people on his papers.

When I awoke later, David was on the floor beside me, watching my face. He kissed me gently when he saw that I was awake and rested his head on my chest. I ran my fingers through his dark thick hair; he found the fingers of my other hand and laced them with his own.

Later he carried me into his bed, and we slept.


Soon it was late September.


I would spend the mornings at the beach by myself, watching the sun grow fainter each day. Later I would sit in front of David’s typewriter, working on a paper for a journal.

David would come home at 3:30 or 4:00, and we’d sit on the porch together and talk; later I would put on David’s big gray sweater and gather the last of the fruits and vegetables from the garden, while David would sit in the living room, listening to music with his eyes closed. After dinner David would grade papers or work on his book.

Early in October I missed my second period, and a pregnancy test confirmed what I had already known.

The following week David had to attend a conference for high school administrators in California. I told him about the baby at the airport on Monday afternoon, fifteen minutes before he was to board his plane.

“I’m very pleased, Emmy,” he said quietly. “But why haven’t you told me sooner?”

“I don’t know why, David.”

“Didn’t you think I’d be glad?”

“I don’t know,” I said again.

“I am glad, Emily.”

I nodded my head slightly, in response.

“What will you do while I’m away?” David asked.

“I thought I’d go back to my old house,” I said.


“I just need to.”

“Then do what you need to do. You know what’s best.”

Then the clerk announced David’s flight, and he gathered his books and briefcase.

“I’ll see you late Wednesday afternoon,” he said, kissing me lightly on the forehead. “Don’t bother to pick me up; I’ll take a cab. Just take care of yourself, will you?”

“Yes,” I said. “You know I will.”

The stewardess’ voice came on the loudspeaker then, and it was time for David to go.


I went back to the old house and spent long hours in front of the mirror in my room, staring at my naked body.


I watched my breasts grow firmer and rounder, the blue veins becoming darker and more distinct by the hour. I turned sideways and looked at the curve of my belly, putting my hands over my stomach and feeling a strange new warmth flowing from my swelling flesh.

I made myself meals of buttered potatoes, which I piled high on paper plates, avoiding my mother’s set of dishes, which still filled the dusty cabinets. I carried my feasts into my room and sat cross-legged on the bed, imagining the food filling my belly and spreading into the flesh of the baby that grew inside me.

On Tuesday afternoon, I started to bleed. At first there were only one or two spots of blood; by evening, there were more. The doctor said that nothing could be done. “Stay in bed; don’t exert yourself. If you’re going to lose the pregnancy, you will.”

I slept very little that night. Then, early Wednesday morning, the cramps became very strong, and a gush of blood passed out of me, along with a clot and what seemed like bloody tendrils that could no longer hold on to the womb inside me.

I stared at the stains on my thighs and at the blood on the sheet around me. I touched the bright red clot and then stared at the circles of blood on my fingers. Soon the cramps started again, and I went to the medicine cabinet and found some of my mother’s unused sleeping pills. I swallowed six of them, and then I lay down on my bed again. Staring at nothing, I fell asleep.


Some hours later I opened my eyes. David was there, in the room with me, sitting in a chair beside the bed.


“Get rid of it, David,” I said quietly. “Please, David, do that for me.”

“How?” he asked, moving forward in the chair.

“Wrap it up in paper and flush it down the toilet,” I said. “David, please do it now.”

“No,” he said gently. “No, Emily, we can’t do that.”

“What do you mean?” I asked, propping myself up on my elbow. “What are you talking about?”

“You don’t flush human life down a toilet bowl,” he said. “It deserves a decent burial.”

I stared dumbly as David searched through my dresser drawers until he found a small box that held an old necklace. He put the necklace back in the drawer, moved to the bed, and laid the clot on the cotton inside the box. He placed the lid on the box and told me to get up and come outside.

Still staggering slightly from the pills, I obeyed.

David chose the rear corner of the backyard. Silently, in the early evening dusk, he dug a hole and then placed the box inside the earth.

Then he looked up at me and asked, “Did you attend your mother’s funeral, Emily?”

“No,” I answered.

“Then perhaps you should say a prayer for her now.”


“Because this is her blood too that we’re burying here.”

“It has nothing to do with her blood, David. It’s my blood – not hers.”

David watched my faced for a moment and then said quietly, “As you will, Emily. I’m going to bury it now.”

When he was done, David took my arm and led me up the back steps, into the kitchen.

“Do you have any candles?” he asked.

“There might be some in there,” I said, pointing to a small utility cabinet.

David found a thick white candle, which he placed on a dish and carried into my room. Without a word he put the dish on my dresser, pulled down the window shades, and lit the candle.

Then he changed the sheet, and I lay down on the bed and stared at the burning candle. Next he went into the bathroom, found a washcloth, and filled an old basin with warm water. Back in my room, he washed the dry blood from the insides of my thighs.

Later, watching the fire, with David in the bed beside me, I slept.


I awoke a few hours later, screaming hysterically.


I jumped out of bed and ran to the dark kitchen, and then I made my way to the chair closest to the window that faced the yard.

“I have to stop them; I have to stop them!” I shouted to David, who followed me into the kitchen, the lit candle in his hands.

“Stop whom, Emily?” he asked, placing the candle on the table. “Stop whom, Emily?” he asked again.

“Didn’t you hear a little girl screaming?” I said. “David, there was a child in here and she was screaming because she was being beaten.”

David came to my side and touched my arm. “Emmy, I heard you screaming.

There’s nobody else here but us.”

Then David took hold of my shoulders firmly and tried to lead me away from the chair. I tried to struggle out of his grasp, but he only held me more tightly.

“David, David, don’t!” I yelled. “Let go of me, let go, let go -” Then the little girl’s screams began again, and I heard her say, “Daddy, Daddy, Daddy, stop,” over and over again, and when I looked at David, I suddenly saw my father’s face. The screams became louder and louder until David let go, and then I fell to the floor, and the screaming finally stopped.

When I opened my eyes again, I saw David kneeling at my side. He lifted me to my feet and led me to the refrigerator, and then he sat down against the metal door, holding me in his arms like a baby.

“What just happened, Emily?” he asked. “Do you know?”

I told David then about the strange episodes of hysteria after my father’s death and about the hypnotherapist and what I had told him about the beatings.

“But do you remember them?” David asked. “Have you just tonight remembered those beatings?”

“Yes,” I said quietly. “I guess I have.”

“What else do you remember?”

“My father used to grab me and drag me over to that chair by the window,” I said, pointing straight ahead. “Then he’d put me across his lap, and my mother would hold me down. When he was finished, he’d push me away with his foot and then walk out of the room.

“Then what?”

“Neither one of them would talk to me for days,” I said.

David leaned his head against the refrigerator and closed his eyes. Then he looked down at my face again and said, “What did you do, Emily? What does a little child do when her parents treat her that way?”

“I survived, David,” I said, stirring in his arms and trying to get up on my feet. “I survived, just like I’m going to survive now.”

Then I pulled myself fully up, holding on to the refrigerator for support. I took a few steps forward, staggered, and felt my knees buckle beneath me.

David stood up and helped me to my feet again. “Go back to bed, Emmy,” he said, leading me to my room. “When was the last time you ate?”

I shrugged my shoulders absently and crawled into bed.

“I’ll be right back,” David said. “I’ll make you some food.”

The sounds from the kitchen grew more and more remote, and I dozed. When I opened my eyes, I saw David sitting on the edge of my bed, a plate filled with food on his lap.

Partly awake, partly asleep, and partly in some other state for which I had no name, I grabbed the dish and flung it against the wall. Then I made my way back to the kitchen, where the candle still stood on the table, and opened the cabinet that held my mother’s set of dishes. I grabbed cup, saucer, plate, bowl, saucer, cup, plate, and saucer again and again and again and threw each piece to the floor, until all of the shelves were empty.

And then I sat down on the cold linoleum amidst the broken china, and all I could think about was how desperately I wanted to put each and every piece back together again, but, of course, that was no longer possibility.

Instead, I watched David sweep each splinter of china into an old dustpan, which he emptied into the trash as soon as the pan had become full. Little by little, piece by piece, all of my mother’s china was, finally, gone.


Now two years have gone by, and it is time to end my story.


I wish that I could end it simply, with the words old Jane used at the close of one of David’s most beloved books, but I cannot. Reader, I did not marry him.

The winter after the miscarriage passed slowly, with its days of frozen sadness and its days of terrifying thaw.

I remained in my parents’ house, and David returned to his own home. He came to see my often, bringing groceries and concern.

`     When the spring finally came I was no better, still spiraling up and down, down and up, between bursting rage and hopeless despair.

Early in June, David came to tell me that he had been invited to attend a summer institute in Paris. He planned to leave as soon as school was over, and he wanted me to go with him.

David closed up his house the first day of July and flew away from me once more. Several weeks later, I packed my clothes and my mother’s old square of sequins in a suitcase, locked the doors of my own white house, and returned to my small apartment in Dallas.

The next year passed uneventfully. David took a sabbatical from his school and remained in Paris to study literature; I resumed my teaching post at the university in Texas.

It is mid-fall again, two years after the night of the broken dishes. The dull, stubborn heat of another Texas summer has passed, and the nights have finally turned cool.

I sit down at the kitchen window and stare out at the dry plain that begins at my door and stretches far beyond where my eyes can see. Then I look towards New York and dream of returning to the old white house one summer, putting my mother’s square of sequins away in her drawer, and going out to the beach to find David sitting quietly on his folding chair, his feet buried in the warm sand beneath him.

Now, I shiver in the cold night air, walk into the living room, and build myself a fire. Later, I sit in its glow, warming my hands over the growing flames.