September 25, 2002

Warming to Winter

We took our morning walk before Ann's early departure for work. With the shortening days, it was quite dark save for the slanting silver moonlight sending shadows of the ridgetop fingering out across the western half of the valley pasture. Moonglow split the scene into silver-gray moon-lightness and deep cobalt darkness, a diorama in monochrome. We, two sleepy humans and one dog, were the only living things stirring, to our imperfect eyes. The only movement in this small world was ours at that dark hour.

Every leaf and blade and bough, wet with the night's dew, glistened and winked as we walked wordlessly along. But that was not the only light, after all. At times it was not possible to say which glintings were moonlight and which were tiny glow worms deep in the grasses, except that the insect lights were just perceptibly amber and the dewdrops crystal-silver. Altogether, this was an uncommonly lovely beginning to an early fall day. Signs were sure that fall had come, as we watched our breath rise in a vapour before us. The day had come to go fetch firewood. In moderation.

I have given myself a stern lecture that I should be doing strenuous physical things in a more limited way this coming year. Gathering firewood I would consider strenuous physical labor; it seems I hold this opinion more strongly every year. What I used to be able to do for endless hours in the woodlot, I tell myself now to do for no more than twenty minutes, then switch to another part of the task, giving those muscles and joints a break. This is what therapists call 'task-rotation'. I need to heed my own best advice.

So this morning's woodgathering would be more ceremonial than practical. The dog and I would go through the motions to get our cycles back in the rhythm of autumn, even if we didn't bring home a cord of wood, cut and neatly stacked.

And sure enough, we didn't bring home much wood, Buster and me. But it was high times together, just us two guys... I am certain, more for him than for me. He is convinced that the whole process of woodgathering is, after all, about him anyway. Every log turned over is for the purpose of exposing a mouse nest or a mole's tunnel. He can barely wait for me to lift each piece off the ground so he can commence digging. He is, after all, a champion mouser.

In the dog-belly-high pasture grass, he sniffs them out, freezes in a crude point, then suddenly springs like Tigger, leaping vertically with his paws pulled tight against his broad chest until the last instant, spiking his landing, thinking to himself that he must look fierce, like a wolf. You see, I told him about Farley Mowat discovering that wolves feed heavily on mice; since then, his canine confidence has bordered on unrestrained lupine arrogance.

We sectioned up a spalted maple log I was saving for a friend to make lumber out of. The log had 'gone to the bad' after two years under the gnarled old apple tree by the creek, and the friend has since died. So, as we did our work mindfully. I celebrated the lives of my friend, and the maple and the apple tree. I gave thanks that, at least in short bursts, hard work still feels mighty good on a late September early morning, until the sun comes over the ridge, and the sweatshirt and cap come off. And those tough chunks of maple will heat me again, come December, when we will stay indoors much of the time, and I will read Buster more inspiring tales of northern adventure.

Ah, winter. Let it come. We'll be ready.

Posted by fred1st at September 25, 2002 06:16 AM

Remember, Fred: lift with the legs, not the back. ;-)

Wish I were there to do some of the splitting for you. I love to cut wood.


Posted by: Curt at September 25, 2002 08:25 AM

Beautifully written, Fred.

Posted by: sainteros at September 25, 2002 08:39 AM

Isn't spalted wood useful to those who create on the lathe?

Posted by: Anita Rowland at September 25, 2002 08:55 AM

Thank you Kurt. And thank you, Curt.

And I emailed Anita that spalted wood is useful; the spalting happens when the wood is standing. The maple I was cutting up was spalted, then spoilt, but being close to the ground for a couple of years. Even so, I hated to cut it up, but will enjoy letting it give back to me the heat I invested in getting it cut up. Curt, it still needs splitting. I'll save it for you.

Posted by: fredf at September 25, 2002 12:56 PM

I think Buster and my shepard, Jill, would have a fine time collecting wood together. Jill is a connoisseur of sticks and has a handsome collection at home. When we cut wood she has a lovely time finding new additions for her collection and proudly deposits her favourites of the day at our feet. Being humans we do not understand the finer points of stick admiration and instead find ourselves tripping over the strategically placed objects and then hurling them into the bush in frustration much to Jills consternation! Although we have few mice and no moles living under our wood, Jill can show Buster the Aussie canine sports of snake scaring and spider splatting.

Posted by: Beck at September 25, 2002 08:39 PM

Post a comment

Remember Me?