Full cold steady stare of white moon’s face illuminates our wood room filling adventures.
Sparkling snowflakes gleam against dark evergreens like fireflies. Soft and alive and diamond, then gone.
We crank open the heavy wood room door. An endless winter chore. Three and a half tall rows of split wood must be hauled in from the tidy silver tarp-covered wood pile and stacked in our wood room.
We fill the unfinished wood room after dark. It takes three nights because we’re–dare I label it?–almost elders. It takes middle-aged folks longer than spry young’uns. We fill maybe an inside row each evening with the heavy maple logs. (In our pioneer youth with willing children, if we were lucky to get willing children to help, we did this in a night. I swear it was so.)
Sometimes we’re talkative. Other times we’re silent, each lost in moonlit thoughts.
I wear high warm boots and Grandma’s 1969 snowmobile suit and warm tight waterproof mittens my mother knit back in the same era. After Barry shovels off snow from the tarp, he crawls tentatively back in the wood room on his newly replaced knees and I lug firewood to the open door.
Inside the basement, behind closed inside door, wood stove motor hums. A warm glow spreads out from our porch light illuminating the woods.
I like this work.
A steady rhythm of gathering the firewood in arms, feeling its heft, its weight, its beauty, its warp, its weave of bark and fiber. A steady dance of transferring the firewood into my husband’s awaiting arms. A steady transfer of trees into heat.
We know where our heat comes from. It comes from the bodies of waving leaves, from the sturdy roots of the earth, from the song of a half-century of straining toward sunlight.
It comes from our own sweat, our muscle, our work. It’s a work punctuated with snowflakes and moonlight and sometimes silly jokes.
In all these years we’ve laughed, we’ve dropped logs on inappropriate human limbs, we’ve cursed, we’ve delighted in a full wood room.
Last night the fourth fingernail on the right hand tore under the weight of some errant log. The tear runs sideways, halfway up the fingernail. How did this happen? Now my fingernail is bandaged and types awkwardly. I do not notice it much. I hope it will not rip off during an inopportune moment or decide to hurt.
Tonight, after the sun sets, after the moon rises, we’ll turn on our deck light once again and trek outside to finish off piling split firewood logs in our wood room, the sound of logs clinking against other logs like bowling pins, that crack sharp and sweet signifying blessed heat, blessed winter warmth.
ouch … I imagine E.T. reaching out to touch your hurt finger … All better now ?
The thing is, Sybil, it doesn’t really hurt. It should hurt, shouldn’t it? But it doesn’t. Yet. I hope E.T. keeps things in order. Or perhaps your well-wishes will…
This was wonderful. Contentment, achievement, healthy, renewable, self-sufficient, comfort, togetherness and lovely poetic fertilizer for our minds.
John, I swear you must come and help, will you? It will help fertilize further posts. 🙂
What time tonight?
OK, John, you got me! I’m just kidding! We’ll be done in a flash!
My knees hurt just thinking of all that work but my heart still yearns for that kind of lifestyle.
I love Sybil’s idea of E.T. touching your finger 🙂 A sweet vision 🙂
I bet your moonlit nights are beyond words….sighhhhh…I’ll just daydream about their beauty as I bake gingersnap cookies this afternoon.
♥ hugs to you, Kathy
Barry’s knees have hurt, too, Brenda, so he would understand your concern. May I have a gingersnap cookie with you? It’s sweetness would help in filling the wood room tonight.
🙂 You can have as many gingersnaps as your little heart desires! Barry too! 🙂
Such food for the senses, Kathy. Beautiful !
You watch it, Girlfriend! I’ll have you over helping fill the wood room if you don’t watch it! *grin* Love you!
If I were near I would come help stack the rows with you. It really is such contenting work, once it’s done. Those mittens and snowmobile suit must be made of strong stuff indeed if they are still intact and working well after these many years. After all the log hauling, I would think surely they’d be in tatters. Enjoy the warmth of your labors, both during and while sipping tea fireside later 🙂
Heather, truly, I do declare these “old” items must be better made than our more modern ones. My mother’s mittens are stronger than you can imagine! Her tight weave still endures, all these years later, all these woodpiles later.
sometimes a little labour is good for the heart, the soul, and the creativity–it is a nice break for the brain and good for the body–I have not had enough physical labour of late and need some, though i am not a agile or strong as I used to be
your writing has taken a lovely poetic turn–or have I just been asleep?
Hello Ms. LouAnn! Yes, it is good to have that labor, although sometimes irritating. ha ha. Did you see this post in which I explained the new direction this blog was headed?https://upwoods.wordpress.com/2012/11/24/aligning-with-our-deepest-values/
There is something eminently satisfying about old fashioned haul and carry for our own survival. But it does make the aging thing harder to ignore.
It does feel good to be so down-to-earth involved with our lives, Lisa. As for those aches and pains of aging…well, let’s not mention them…
What! You are feeling the aged thing? Can’t be. You are still a spring chicken my dear and even though your husband had a new knee or two replaced I think you are both up to the job. Just thinking about what all those split logs will do for you is the motivating factor.
Such lovely words that glide from your injured finger tip. Words that make me so glad that I do not live in snow country.. There is no denying the beauty of your woods and all of the poetic scenes that you write so loving about.
But- I am more elderly than you and I had my son seal the flue of our huge fireplace because I got sick and tired of all the work involved plus spending around $160 per cord of post oak wood that went up in smoke way too fast. I wish that years ago, if I had been wiser, I would have put up a wood stove on the huge hearth. Stoves emit more heat. and I think they are easier to clean.
So with all of my rambling I shall say adios until your next post.
PS: Is there a reason that you move the wood on a snowy moonlit night?
We like being called spring chickens! 🙂 I must admit that I like the chores involved with wood, the splitting, hauling, stacking and burning of it. Yes, buying and burning wood can be challenging in many ways. Luckily, we don’t have to spend a lot buying it, and can still save money over propane heat. To answer your last question, we move wood at night because Barry doesn’t get home from work until late afternoon and needs to relax before we start our evening chores. And it’s dark at 6 p.m.
After I sent my comment your way, I thought to myself that apparently one or both of you work and yes it is dark by 6pm which leads me to get on with my outside chores since is is a bit past 5pm CST. It is good to know that you can heat cheaper with wood than propane. I have natural gas fueling a very old floor furnace. Someday I think I’ll write about the heat thing here is Texas. Where I live we’ve had maybe 2-3 nights of 31-32 degrees. Pitiful that I complain when it is cold..
Thanks for the reply.
I wanted a fireplace. My husband wanted a wood stove because “it’s more efficient.” We have had a wood stove now for 24 years and it works like a charm. When the lights go out in a winter storm and there is no other heat – there’s our trusty stove. Your post reminds me to appreciate the forest around us and the man made equipment we have to utilize its gifts.
Yes, dorannrule, isn’t it wonderful to know we have that heat source when the power goes out? I love it, and I love the forest which gives of itself so beautifully. I am reminded, like the Native Americans, to give continual thanks.
Hi Kathy, I see you’re back blogging just as I’m starting a “rest.” I like visualizing you in that snowmobile suit. They made clothes to last back then. Hope the fingernail doesn’t pull away – keep it bandaged. That sounds owey. Glad you and Barry won’t freeze this winter. Wish we had some of that snow. Don’t be hogging it way up here in the UP.
Barb, I only took an eight day break this time–one of the shortest ever, but it was very rejuvinating. Enjoy your blogging hiatus! The fingernail is bandaged, but it’s awkward. Wondering if they have itty bitty tiny bandages anywhere to fit on the nail? I SWEAR we’re trying not to hog the snow. They say it will be melting in the next few days as it gets to around 40.
I remember those days with my parents. We had to fill the basement. We lined the walls with the stacks of wood that we gleaned from the Missouri River banks. We always said that wood warmed us twice, once when we cut it, and second when we burned it. Actually it was three times, cut and load, then unload, then burn. Yes those were the days, the simpler times. I so wish we had a fireplace or a wood stove of some kind now. We left space for it in our Herreid house. Maybe someday.
Yes, Lucinda, that wood does warm us in MANY ways! It sounds like you do know if this fun wood experience. Hoping you get to enjoy wood burning some day.
Living up to your word and being present. Keep up the good work.
It feels right these days, Lori. Trying to put the presence of life into words that describe its arising. Thank you.
Dear blogging friend, I have nominated you for “2012 Blog of the Year” Award ~ http://travelgardeneat.com/2012/11/29/you-flatter-me-blogger-friends/ (for the “rules” :-)) — however, whether you participate in the awards process or not, thank you for sharing and know you are appreciated! ~ Kat
Kat, I actually got tears in my eyes reading this last night. Your nomination is sweet and heart-filled and makes me feel so good. I probably won’t participate, but will carry your kind words in my heart all weekend and beyond! Thank you sincerely.
Kathy, this is one of my favorite Lake Superior Spirit posts. “We know where our heat comes from. It comes from the bodies of waving leaves, from the sturdy roots of the earth, from the song of a half-century of straining toward sunlight.” Love that!
Pamela, it is always so interesting the way one blog post inspires one person and another likes another. It has been fun to write with words of description and Presence these last couple of weeks. It feels like a good new direction to aim.
you make chopping fire wood sound so romantic.
It can be, me2013! (But then I am of the opinion that most ordinary things in life–if seen through to their underlying nature–can be romantic.) Thank you for pausing to chop beside us.
Thank goodness that our basement is half filled with wood. It is so hard that a log lasts forever. I know you will be happy when your chore is finished.
You are lucky to have that much hard wood, Karen. I wish our logs lasted forever… 🙂
I think I would love this type of work, too, Kathy. In silence, with silly jokes, or moonlit bantering. Yeah, I think I would like it, too. ❤
You just might like it, Stacy-Lyn. I have grown to like it a lot.
This was absolutely lovely. The detail, the description, the sweet solitude (between the two of you and the wood and the snowflakes) took my breath away. BEAUTIFUL.
Pam, OK, you can resume breathing. I would hate to take someone’s breath away for long. Glad you enjoyed the little story of our wood room adventures.
It’s the ‘little stories’ that make a big punch. I’ve decided the little stories are what’s most important in our world. Keep on giving us your perfect little gems.
We don’t go through nearly as much wood as you guys do, but we enjoy the bajeebers out of our woodburning stove. We have a little “hut” type thing in the back yard that we fill with wood that’s been split to less than 18-inches in length so that it fits. You’ll excuse me now, won’t you, so I can go get a cuppa hot chocolate and put my feat up in front of the fire…
Oh, yes, lots of folks around here have that “hut” thing that keeps the wood dush, ashes, smoke and mess outside of the house. Some people swear by it. Did you mean to type “put your feat up in front of the fire”? It IS quite a feat burning wood. *smile*
Oh dear – I meant feet. Clearly typing without typos is quite a feat 🙂
I dunno. The “feat” reference sounded like a Freudian slip to me!
I would like to see a picture of you in that 1969 snowmobile suit! I’ll bet it’s a beauty! I, too have fond memories of filling the basement with wood for heat. Now I only collect wood for the brick oven. Thanks for the well written memories.
Chequamegongirl, I swear–somewhere in this blog–that photo exists. One of these days I’ll dig it out and post it! Thank you for visiting and sharing your own wood heat memories.
Kathy- what a great story- I really do envy you and your life in the UP. You are such a fine blogger and writer. YOu should become an author and write a novel, you could be famous and then I can tell everyone that you are my cousin!Here in Colorado, we are really hurting for moisture, the ski lodges are hurting we need snow badly. November is one of our snowiest months and down here on the plains we got 2″. the mountains are making snow. I enjoy reading your blogs. Cousin Marion.
Cousin Marion, it warmed my heart to see that you are stopping by to read the blogs and that you enjoy the stories. Heard from another friend about Colorado’s dryness. Hoping that you get more snow soon. Love, Kathy
Kathy, I love your images and your imagery! I should come visit you and your snow and wood shed. Your mother’s mittens reminds me of a heavy wool jacket I am just finishing. It weights a ton and will probably last at least two ceturies! But with the mild weather we’re having down here so far, I have no idea when I can wear it. So I’m thinking of cold places to visit!
Patty, I haven’t seen you forever and a day! Probably because you’re too busy with that heavy wool jacket. I’ll bet you do need some cold places to visit where you can show off your new coat and be oh-so-warm!
I have to tell you I admire your pioneer spirit. I love the concept of a fireplace and/or a wood stove – but I love the convenience of the thermostat on the wall.
Carol, we have both the pioneer spirit AND a thermostat on the wall which turns on when we want/need propane. (I can understand that love of convenience. So much less work than sawing, splitting, hauling, stacking, burning….)
You write so good. I feel for your hubby with his new knees, with all that work. I hope your torn nail doesn’t hurt too bad. Hard work hurts when you get older. I know, my back was in pain yesterday from moving a heavy hot tub. I love your pictures too.
Connie, glad you enjoy the writing. I am enjoying sharing stories of Presence like these. I hope your back is feeling better today. Maybe you need to get in that tub for a long hot relaxing soak?
I love this quietly soft, meditative piece. We don’t heat with wood but my folks have a fireplace so I know a bit of which you write. Thanks for this. And stay warm!
Glad you enjoyed this, Christine. I actually thought of you when writing several posts recently. (Not the most recent two.) My soul loves quiet peaceful wood-burning posts.
I liked your description of the logs clinking together like bowling pins. 🙂
You may be slowing down a little but all the activity you do in the back woods will keep you young, believe it or not. My active Grandma outlasted the Grandma who spent most of her time curled up on the couch listening to classical music. May you find the same kind of energy from all the work you do. 🙂
I like reading this comment! Do you promise this will keep us young? I feel like your words are a benediction. (And the logs DO sound like bowling pins. Clink. Clink. Clink.)