I'm a stasher by nature. I stash yarn, I stash fiber, I stash stationery and cards, I stash ink refills for pens and printers, I stash jams and jellies, and I really, really have a thing for firewood. Which is why the sight of this, curing in my front yard, makes me oh so very happy.
I'm not the only one with a thing for firewood. A few houses up from us is a small, extremely tidy little house inhabited by two wonderful people who happen to be in their late 80s (perhaps early 90s?). But their age is deceptive. They go deep into the woods to get materials for wreaths in the fall, they clear their driveway by hand in the winter, and they rake blueberries in the summer. We tend to trade things throughout the year -- a pint of blueberries from them is reciprocated with a jar of strawberries from me, which is reciprocated with a jar (same jar, washed and returned) of chocolates... and so it goes. I love these people.
He is a wood man. Not by career, but by aesthetic. When they were tearing apart the inside of my house, he called to ask if he could possibly come by and take the wood for firewood. Of course I said yes. That Christmas, he gave me a box of kindling made from the old plaster laths of my house. Each tenderly and perfectly cut to size, all nails removed. I do not use that kindling. I admire it as a work of art.
His woodpiles are equally astonishing. Crisp perfect rows of wood, stacked with such skill that I suspect you could pull out a log from the very center and nothing else would move.
Last year they reluctantly traded in their wood-burning stove for a gas stove. The hauling wood and cleaning the ashes was just too much. It was indescribably strange to drive by their house on a snowy evening and not smell a fire.
So I've had this gorgeous mound of firewood curing in my front yard all week. On Saturday there was a knock at the door. It was my neighbor, ostensibly there to return a jar (freshly refilled with yet more chocolates). Talk quickly shifted to the firewood. He was enchanted with my firewood. We walked over to it and inspected a few logs. We discussed how long it should age, and we went into the barn to disucss where it should be stacked and what mode I should use to transport it from the pile into the barn.
And then he finally blurted out, "If you need any help stacking this wood, I'd be happy to come on over."
Ever have that feeling of simultaneous heartbreak and delight/pride/honor? (I'm sure the Germans have a word for it. Scharfenfreudenleinscheinmeinleikenschulemenekengenden or something.) Well that's what I felt. Here's someone who's been on this planet a long time, who's had more fires and stocked more winter woodpiles than I can ever imagine, and who now finds himself woodless.
You know I'll be asking him over to help when the stacking begins. Not because I want to get free labor out of a 90-something-year-old man but because I know what pleasure it will give him, and I long to learn every secret I can from him about how to make the perfect woodpile.