I huddle close to the fire, much too close but if I put my gloved hands over my knees, the intense heat can become bearable. Funny how a fire in the winter can be too hot on one side of you but in less than a foot on the other side of you, it is icicle cold. The snow is falling quietly in large wet flakes but none penetrate the dome above the roaring cedar fire. The pine trees all around groan lightly in the slight breeze carrying their heavy burden of snow on all their branches. The silence is deafening. Beside the occasional snap, crackle or pop, all that can be heard are the trees whispering in the darkness behind me as the wind tickles their tops. Blissful.
For a time, I sit there trying to absorb as much heat as possible while watching the yellow flames consuming the twisted cedar logs and reducing it into a pile or orange coals. It is a chain of life. The log gets consumed, the flames get smaller, the cold gets colder and I huddle closer until I am practically crouched in the fire. My mind starts drifting back behind the pines to a dome shaped piece of ripstop nylon now coated with perhaps an inch of new snow. A down filled sleeping bag welcomes my mind and begs it to convince the rest of me to come, sleep.
I stand up, turn around and back right up to the very edge of the fire. In fact, I partially straddle one side and let the heat penetrate into my backside. The key is quickly because the front side is already losing the stored heat and I want to retain some of it. An intense burning sensation in the lower calves signal it is time to go. I step outside the ring of light; the cold begins to chase the heat out from my body. By the time I am at the tent and gently shaking the snow from the zippered door, shivers are already starting to arrive and I quickly crawl inside careful to leave the snow outside where it belongs.
I quickly arrange all my gear in case a hasty exit is required, because you just never know and finally crawl into the down sleeping bag. The nylon is cold, like slipping into cold sheets on a bed only much colder. But heat returns rapidly and by the time I have zipped my cocoon up until only a small air hole remains, it is warm. Some say that newborn babies sleep better when swaddled to simulate the life it just left behind in the womb. I think we never fully forget. Huddled in my swaddling clothes, enclosed in my womb protecting me from the snowstorm outside, I drift off to sleep, protected and warm.