I have scarcely been able to sleep these past days, pondering Luc’s question: where does the warmth come from? What makes the sky-chairs go? And then, last night—what makes the hardened dishes hard and unbreakable?
I fell into a reverie, there in our darkened room, remembering an absurd notion I’d had, a vision of airy spirits with little hammers and chisels breaking my plates. I had almost an image in my mind of such spirits flying away from my warming blocks in vast cheer and merriment, each tiny spirit bearing a gift of warmth. And other spirits, darker in color, clustering within a dinner plate, their tiny backs pressing against the surfaces, protecting them from knocks and bangs.
It is a foolish idea, and yet in my fatigued state it seemed to me as good an explanation as any I’d considered, and with great satisfaction I was at last able to sleep.
And then this morning I awoke and realized that I’d only put off the problem: even supposing tiny spirits are carrying warmth away from the warming block, where do they get it? Not from the block; I could burn that and get a small amount of warmth, but my warming blocks keep giving.
I was shaving, wincing at the icy water in the basin—for my Amelie prefers me to remain clean-shaven even at the coldest times of the year—when a different image occurred to me. I pictured Amelie’s cooking pot, its walls filled with tiny spirits as she prepared dinner. But instead of pushing against the knocks and bangs, the little spirits grabbed them and held them close, filling their little arms with them. And then, in my mind’s eye, I pictured a warming block. Spirits were clustered around it—not in it, but around it—and each one had its arms filled with a warm glow. As I watched others joined them.
And then, in my mind’s eye, I put the warming block beside the pot…and saw spirits flying from the pot, arms full of knocks and bangs, to the block. And as they approached it the knocks and bangs began to glow.
At that point Amelie interrupted me and pressed a cloth to my cheek, for I had cut myself without noticing.
I have been pondering this all day, sitting beside the stove in my workroom while Luc copies from my grimoire. I do not believe in my little airy spirits, of course, but there is something, some je ne sais quoi, that is shared by all of these things. I hardly know what to call it, or how it can be so.
The best word I have come up with is something like effort. It takes effort to move a sky-chair or a sky-ship. It takes effort to warm a bed. And, although my father taught me to think of hardening as a change in the substance of the thing hardened, it takes effort for a hardened plate or pot to resist knocks and bangs.
Or, no, I see now! I see it! It takes effort to produce the knocks and bangs! It takes effort on the part of an ox to pull a cart, and the cart is moved by it. The effort is produced by the ox, and transmitted to the cart through the yoke, and is so consumed.
And just so is the effort of banging the pot on the stove transmitted to the pot. This wears down a normal pot, which eventually requires the services of a tinker, but in a hardened pot it is somehow taken in, absorbed like this towel absorbs the water from my face. It is taken in, and the plate seems harder because of it.
The warming block receives effort from—where?—and somehow radiates it like warmth from a fire, and we feel it.
It almost seems as if the warming blocks are somehow drawing the absorbed effort away from the hardened dishes and turning it into warmth. Eventually the plates are not only not hardened, but even weakened! And then, because there is less effort available to them, the blocks give off less warmth.
Could it be that simple? I feel that there is something I am missing. Warming blocks should work properly even in the absence of hardened goods. And then, how did my sky-chairs work for so long, over so wide a region, only to start failing now?
I must re-read my grimoire and think deeply about everything it says in the light of these new ideas.