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by G. E. Shuman
My daughter, Emily, drove us to school today. She has her driver’s permit, and getting behind the wheel of the car is still a novelty to her. Most cold school mornings, like today, I venture out to the car to see her already sitting in the driver’s seat, which is fine with me. The ‘new’ wore off the act of driving, for me, before most of you readers were born. I do love the fact that we don’t have to crank-start cars anymore. (That was supposed to be a joke.)
Anyway, it is enjoyable for me, to not be the driver, sometimes. Being chauffeured around gives me the chance to see the sights, check things out, and enjoy the ride a bit more than when behind the wheel. This morning, although I didn’t mention it to Emily, I was riding along, kind of checking out chimneys. Yes, I know that sounds strange, but we have a new heating system, and had to have our chimney fixed up as part of that. So, now, I notice the condition of other people’s chimneys.
You know, chimneys are things that are really taken for granted. Like opinions, everyone seems to have one, in one form or another. They just sit there, hidden in your wall and sticking up above your roof. (I’m referring to your chimney, not your opinion, hopefully.) From my observation this morning, chimneys also seem to be in various stages of repair, or disrepair. Some look brand new, and others appear ready to topple off the roof at any second, as was ours. And, chimneys are made of a variety of materials. Most are of brick, but some are cement block, tile, or stovepipe. Some seem to be made, or remade, of a combination of these all.
This morning, at ten below zero, the chimneys we passed were very active. Smoke from stoves, oil burners, gas flames and pellet furnaces rose straight up into the sky from house after house along the road we traveled. As I looked across one valley, the scattered, aging homes dotting that landscape reminded me of a haphazard gathering of pipe-smoking old men, hunkered down together among the hills, and against the cold. I imagined hearths and hearts, warming families and friends within those walls, sheltering them from the freezing blasts just outside. Thoughts of cats huddled around radiators, and old dogs basking before wood stoves, filled my mind.
Sometime, when you’re riding along a Vermont country road on a frigid winter day like today, try checking out the chimneys, and give in to your imaginations of heart and hearth and dogs and cats. But, do this, only if you have a chauffeur.
“George’s World,” a new 740 page collection of George’s columns from The World, is available at xlibris.com, amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com and your favorite bookstore. “The Smoke And Mirrors Effect,” George’s first novel, can be seen at amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com.
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