In my experiences as a boy I remember the kitchen best. My mother is kneading bread and the sunbeams stream through the antique glass in long hazy winter rays. The old queen Atlantic wood stove is gently ticking and making other breathing sounds. A kettle whistles quietly. I am curled by the woodpile amongst the tattered dog blankets and wood chips. Outside the path to the woodshed is deep snow, over my head, and I am proud to help with the chores of stacking wood and carrying it to the stove. It creates the warmth that bakes our bread and heats our home.
There are projects that are never completed any more than they are ever started. They are simply woven into the faded fabric of life. They are not the bright and modern painting of tomorrow or gilded promises of next year, they are the ancient slow rhythms of yesterday. They are the melodic song of toil that guides us towards the hearth. They are the warmth of home and the instinct to ready for long winters. In them is the essence of happiness that is simple, bold, beautiful music of existence and the celebration of the everyday.
As a young father I often found solace in the peace of the woodshed. Quiet time could be found in the honest pursuit of readying the family for winter. The ritual of chopping wood, a simple mantra of survival. The repetitive nature of the work leaving time and space for thoughts and dreams to grow. Amongst the golden log ends I would meet with friends to share a cold beer or two. Many songs where sung and strummed on old guitars and banjos long into the night while the wind roared above the rusted metal roof. I shared wood sheds with skunks, chipmunks, raccoons, countless spiders and a cat named yogurt. I emptied them, and filled them again with wood in the natural rhythm of the seasons.
On fall’s first cold clear night I start the winter seasons first fire. A birch bark mound is topped with thinly chopped oak kindling. The fire springs to life instantly with the brilliant spark of the supernatural. Few things can mesmerize old and young like the dance of flame. The fire that glows brightly will burn through the cold days and colder nights fed by countless arm loads of wood. It will burn through the winter solstice and the shortest day of the year. It will burn through January’s tradition and February’s gales. It will burn on fed by dry wood until spring and the promise of a new season. Before the ashes have cooled the next years wood will be well underway for just as spring blooms with the warmth of life giving sun so does Mother Nature promise to return the earth to its frozen rest the following winter
Now I lay by the fire and soak up its dry heat. It dries our boots and mittens that lay scattered about. It warms the bones of our old dog Annie. It warms our hearts too, for we love our home nestled in the fields and forests of this land and without the fires warmth it would not be possible. Where it begins or ends is unknown, only we are certain, that we are starting down a road many have gone before and wherever it winds it will always lead to where we are supposed to be. Wherever we start, we will end up back again.