I wish my room was an ocean…

Photo by RENNIE COOK

By ERIN WALCZAK

When students get to college, we like to think we’re all grown up. Little do we know there are still a number of things we cannot do, one of which is having the presence of a tiny flame or ember in our dorm rooms.

While living at home throughout high school, I was a faithful candle and incense burner. If you walked into my room on a good day, you might find yourself searching through every nook and cranny for fresh-baked cookies. Without the presence of the little sticks of heaven we call incense, I would never have been able to close my eyes and halfway convince myself I was on the beach in the middle of the cold, harsh Wisconsin winters.

Now as we all know, no one has ever walked into a dorm room in its natural state and said, “WOW! What a pleasant smelling abode I just stumbled upon!” This is not to say walking into a dorm room is like walking into a garbage room, but the scent of a room is a key part of the environment and vibe of my living space. Unfortunately, Caroline Hall residents are forbidden to burn candles or incense in the dorm rooms.

It is understandable that decision-makers on campus want to promote safety in the dorms. However, I have been burning incense and enjoying the luxury of candles for many years, and I have never had an incident such as the scenarios that keep this fear of fire intact.

Residents of Caroline Hall have no curfew. We are mature and responsible enough to be able to live on our own in the dorms, drive on busy roads, prepare our own food (with sharp utensils if necessary), and many of us have even managed an entire bonfire, not just a tiny candle. If we can do all of these things and stay alive, I have enough faith in the Mount Mary population to believe we can manage to burn a candle or stick of incense in our rooms without burning down the residence hall.

If the fire hazard is the main concern, there are precautions students can take. When burning incense at home, I always keep a window open and a small fan operating somewhere in my room. If your neighboring dorm-dwellers do not enjoy the smell of incense, it is very effective to add a closed door into the equation. With a closed door, open window and the use of a fan, the smell will not bother your neighbors and the room will have an adequate air flow.
Perhaps the most important element in preventing fires when burning incense is the location of the incense and which type of burner you use. I recommend an incense burner with a cover that goes 360 degrees around the incense and covers the top — basically, a holder that encloses the incense but has holes on the sides for the smoke to billow out.

Carmel pecan pie, cinnamon stick, fresh cut roses, lemon lavender and juicy peach — not only do these flavors sound delicious, they smell delicious, and they are all names of candles found at Yankee Candle. Candles behave differently from incense and would be, in my opinion, slightly simpler to use. When handling a candle, just ensure the candle is in a safe place: a flat, clean surface that has nothing near it, above it or around it. You can even go so far as to place it on the window sill so the smoke goes straight out the window. Keeping a candle in an area that is easily seen and out of the way is a great strategy for burning candles safely.

Candles normally come equipped with a cover that, conveniently, can be used to put the candle out. When you are done enjoying your candle’s lovely aroma, simply place the cover back on the candle, and the flame will subside. Using the cover also eliminates excess smoke the candle would otherwise emit if you just blew it out. Simple enough.

So the real question is why aren’t the residents of Mount Mary College responsible enough to burn candles and incense? I think the majority of residents would agree we are! The closed door, open window and operating fan equation is a flawless system for burning incense, when done correctly. Candles only require a clear, safe place. If the correct precautions are taken, Caroline Hall residents could feel like they are baking cookies or lying by the ocean every day.

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