Saturday, February 14, 2015

Ashes to Ashes

It is a fiercely cold day with a northerly wind howling through the pine trees outside this window.  A long spell of frigid temperatures is moving in tonight, so - naturally - some archaic instinct is pulsing strong in my mind, and I have been hard at work cutting, gathering, and splitting enough wood to make it one more week.  That has become my rhythm:  one week of heat at a time, a dangerous game I'm playing - driven both by my desire to be done with winter and with my unpreparedness for it in the first place.  

Motivated by the promise of heat streaming out of the floor vents, I took my chainsaw back into the in-law's woods today where a massive section of red oak had fallen to the ground across a hiking path.  And, nearby, lay another nice section of cherry.  The work of earlier fierce winds had done their tasks, pulling from the trees these key pieces.  They lay half buried beneath leaves, the presence of fungi on their bark the evidence of earth's decay already at work.  Despite a few soft spots, though, these were valuable finds.  One full tank of gas and about an hour in the woods with Ada gave me more than enough wood to try and carry out.  The cherry alone nearly filled up the back of my truck's bed, and - besides - I'm still holding out hope this will be the last of the truly frigid weather.

Cutting, gathering, and splitting wood always tears my body down.  Invariably, I take two or three Tylenol after it's all done, and tonight is no different, the muscles in my lower and mid back protesting from their overexertion and my poor lifting technique.  Yesterday, it was the same as I tried to split the rest of what was a small pile of wood in our yard.  They were large chunks, and many required not just the splitting maul, but also a wedge.  It was hard work, which explains why I quickly got rid of my jacket, placing it on top of the wood burner.  I didn't imagine the job taking that long, but dusk quickly turned to night, and I was still pounding away on the logs before me.  Thoroughly exhausted and ready for a few of those Tylenol, I went back to the wood burner to retrieve my coat.  Strangely, as I lifted it from the top, I noticed a bright orange glowing within it, mystified for a few brief seconds.  Then, it hit me.  My coat was on fire.  I dropped it on the ground and proceeded to stomp on it with my heavy boots, thinking it just a small ember.  But, still the glowing orange persisted.  I stomped for several more seconds, picked up the coat, and noticed a rim of burning, bright orange now with an even larger diameter.  That was that.  The fire was pretty much out, but the damage was extensive, a hole the size of a softball on the back left shoulder.  It isn't my nicest coat, but it is my best one for doing work outside.  

Joe and Lisa dropped by later on this afternoon to pass along some Valentine's candy for the kids.  They stayed in their Jeep as we told them the story of the coat incident near Ada's doghouse - myself wrapped only by a thick Patagonia fleece in the place of my more trustworthy field jacket.  Joe wondered if Lisa remembered that time when all they found of a coat was the zipper!  Apparently, I've still got something to salvage.  

We've got enough to get by ... for now ... unless it gets truly cold.  But, that's how I tend to operate in this season of winter:  eeking by and always looking for when I can put the winter coat away for good.