My friend Trink has a beautiful fireplace of the kind found in many Sewanee homes: native stone with a large slab as mantle. Before her stroke, she used to lay a perfect fire; now, happily, one of the women who cares for her does just as well.
After reading to her (Barack Obama's Dreams from My Father) this afternoon, I made each of us a small drink and lit the fire, placing a pine cone on top of the stack to ensure it would catch. We enjoyed the Scotch and the warmth of the logs and the hand-cut stone and the crackle of flame licking wood.
A little literature, a soothing drink, a friend, and a good fire can take the chill off a dreary and lonely day.