With temperatures sinking into the single digits these past few mornings the air seems so brittle that a modest wind might shatter the very atmosphere. Cold causes chimneys and stacks to puff with visible exhalations that most times go undetected. Every vent and duct connected to a furnace becomes a manufactory of clouds.
The pattern, contour and color of exhausts depend on the breeze, the fuel burned, and the height and shape of the stack. I like seeing the smoke waft away and trail to spindly tendrils against the sky. It’s akin to watching a dancing flame and is liable to produce the same delightful half-hypnotic state experienced staring into a fire. Each flue is different and some seem to exhale like self-conscious cigarette smokers.
Though few people venture out in the frigid dawn, smoking chimneys are signs of life, of human activity hunkered in indoor warmth. But going outside is well rewarded with a phenomenon reserved only for arctic-like mornings that also cause us to produce our own clouds with every breath.