Tuesday, October 19, 2004

This is Progress?

Today I stacked firewood. What a remarkable thing for a lifelong city boy to be doing in October.

At this cottage that we visit from time to time, they have a unique — to a city boy such as I — furnace. It has two chambers: one for oil and another for wood. Especially now, but every winter really, wood is cheaper to burn than oil. So, they use both here. The oil furnace stays on low to prevent freezing when there's nobody here for long, cold stretches. It's also wonderful to have it on standby in case the wood fire dies out in the middle of the night. However, when the place is occupied, everyone seems to prefer wood. Yes, it's cheaper, but, more importantly, it's also much more cozy. When I walk down the lane and see the smoke wafting lazily out of the chimney, or when I first come in the door and smell the delicious aroma of the burning wood, it kind of sets my inner embers aglow too.

With the cottage owners down in the city just now and with a disorganized heap of wood strewn haphazardly about the shed after being hurredly hurled on the weekend, I got all ambitious today and took it upon myself to stack it. Having never really done this before, I was a little anxious about the whole thing because we don't want the thing to come tumbling down on someone's foot on a cold winter's day. Do we? However, I soon got the hang of it, or so I think — only time will tell for sure. Some pieces are cut once with a single flat edge, so I started with those on the bottom layer. Other pieces have two cut edges and, therefore, are more wedge shaped. I tried to fit these wedgies into the grooves between the logs of the bottom layer ... and so on. It took a while to get it sorted in my head, but I kind of got on a roll after a while. Let's just hope that the logs don't go on an unscheduled roll.

I feel a sense of connectedness when I do something like this. I know that one of my great grandparents lived in an area somewhat similar to this, just a few hours to the east. Great grandfather Robinson probably cut and stacked many a cord in his day. Now I have done at least one cord and have another to do tomorrow, and I feel a tiny bit of kinship with a man who was long gone before I shed my first tears.

They worked hard and long back then, over a century ago. I hope that they enjoyed their lives. I think they did, maybe more than we do today. They were their own bosses to a large degree: could drop their activities as they chose and take an hour to discuss the topics of the day with any neighbour who happened to dropped by. They answered to no foreman or supervisor who impatiently clocked their breaks.

Winters were, to some degree, the season of rest back then, often the favourite season of the year. There were no fields to be ploughed, no wood to be cut: just wood to burn after summer's and autumn's hard labour. Life isn't like that anymore. We continue to commute to our jobs through snow storms and along slippery roads. We live in slushy cities where the snow begins to taint into dullness almost immediately upon impact. We drive to work in the dark, and we drive home in the dark.

No wonder we bitch and complain about it. It just isn't natural for us to live like that in winter. We're supposed to sleep longer, read more, and enjoy the heat and aroma from the burning, crackling logs.

This is progress?


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