It’s the time of the year where it’s possible to smell chimney smoke again. Last week, when I was in Glencoe, I looked out the window and saw a row of white houses set against a backdrop of rolling hills, chimney smoke rising into the air. Everything felt warmer after that.
The house where we stayed had a coal stove and the man who owned it had a mug of coffee in his hand. He told us how to use it and said that if we came home before him, we should light a fire. When we walked back from the pub later that night, it rained the whole way and we didn’t have an umbrella and it was very dark. But what I remember most of all was that the night air smelled like chimney smoke.
I saw it too – wispy, white, billowing smoke being swallowed up by the darkness. It made me think of all the rooms being warmed and all the people snuggled on couches in them. Cats curled up in balls and laundry hanging up to dry and Christmas.
Perhaps chimney smoke is all the more inviting and comforting because whenever you see it or smell it, you’re probably cold no matter how puffy your coat is. You can probably see your breath, wishing you’d worn warmer socks. You are probably stepping over autumn leaves or walking tentatively over icy roads.
When we got inside, we lit the fire as soon as we took off our boots, the smoke from our chimney joining the night. The warmth, the coziness, the light all had the desired effect. The rain could no longer chill our bones; the branches tapping on the windows couldn’t get us. We were safe essentially – the weary travellers returned home. It was our turn to sit in front of the fire and rest and be warm; two figures framed in the glow of a rain-splashed window, a quiet street, and chimney smoke rising into the air.