Thursday, August 31, 2006

winter goldI'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.


rho said...

Oh, I am lusting after your woodpile -- we were just discussing that next week or the week after we have to go start loading up and bringing home wood. Is there anything better than the first really cold day having the wood stove going and coming home and smelling the wood burning -- it just makes me so happy.

So I completely understand -- and I have decided I will have smaller logs delivered and piled closer to the house as we age :D

Luann said...

Another wood-stasher here - the joy of having a working fireplace in our house was doubled when we discovered it also came with a woodshed! By scavenging from neighbors on garbage day (who would put a perfectly beautiful pile of logs out for the trashman?) or clearing brush for friends in the 'burbs we managed to go the first 5 years without buying any wood. Last year we had to resort to buying bundles from the grocery store. Your post inspires me to find someone to deliver us a 1/2 cord or so for the winter!

Laura said...

Clara, my dear girl, you can surely spin (pun completely and utterly intended) a good story and this one left me with a tear in my eye by the end. I must agree with you that he soooo wants to stack your wood and here's to you for realizing just that. :)

Bess said...

Happy firewood. Beautiful story sweetie. Of course, BD does my firewood stacking but it's surely his favorite form of exercise. 3 cords. That's what it takes to heat our house every winter - but then - it's our only heat.

Missin' ya, sweetie. 'n takin' advantage of all the power outages to post comments on blogs with my dial-up Internet access!

Donna in Virginia said...

I had a neighbor like yours. He was just the sweetest old fella and when his wife gave me some plants, he insisted on digging them up, putting them in his wheelbarrow, and bringing them to my house for me. I was all of 29 at the time and felt like I should be carrying him but he got such pleasure out of helping me. I got a lovely memoriy though.

Jennifer said...

nyah nyah my pile of wood is bigger than your pile of wood. ;-D

loved your story.

and love being able to check in again ~ yay for internet satellite!

Hey, are you coming to Rhinebeck?


Sue Woo said...

I have no wood to stack. I think I'll be ok here in SC.

Once, when I lived in DC I was walking home when I came upon a man in coveralls selling wood off the back of his truck, right there in Dupont Circle. He said "Wanna buy some farwood?" And right out of my mouth came, "Naw, I ain't got a farplace." I walked on and thought "What just came out of my mouth?" That accent came right back even though I wa trying to be all that livin' in the Big City!

Amanda said...

I'm reading back through your archives and came across this lovely post. It brought tears to my eyes as I recalled my grandfather and the way he treasured his fireplace and the wood pile in the yard. Thanks for sharing this moment from your life.

CurvyLou said...

Archive archeology uncovers gems. What a beautiful story, and *of course* you're going to (did?) ask him to help. Knowing you not as well as I would like, I still know you'd have him over just to give him the pleasure, because you are a kind and loving creature. I'm really enjoying reading your old posts, by the way, and watching you evolve as a woman and a writer.