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Sunday, October 27, 2013

Notes From The Woodpile

        It's up across the pasture, around a little bend, nestled in to a copse of trees. Bordered on two sides by a wide, ancient stonewall. There is an old blue van, all rusty, no engine, tires mouldering into the grass. It holds the things you need at the wood pile. Things like gas and oil and sharpening equipment and extra chains and wrenches and screw drivers. Other things, too, that have collected dust and rust for many years. There is a pile of granite slabs. Wheel barrows. Plastic milk crates. The splitter. An old manure spreader. An old wagon from a long ago tractor that is heaped with fence poles. A wobbly picnic table, faded blue, also, and chunks fall off of it sometimes.

       This has been his "office" for over forty years. When you heat your house only with wood, and also burn wood in your sugar house, you need a lot of wood. Many cords. Way back then, in those early, glory years, he worked at brick laying all day. Nights and Saturdays, though, were spent at the wood pile. At first it was just us. Sometimesd we would get behind and bundle up and bring lights in the cold November evenings to get it all finished. When our sons got big enough, they went with him. Learning work ethics. Learning caution and safety. Learning team work. Learning respect for thier father. Some learning to also love wood piles. Some learning to hate them.
        Eventually they were saavy enough to be able to work the wood pile by themselves. Now they have sons who also come over sometimes and work the wood pile. It is a beautiful thing, to see the knowledge passing on to the generations.
        Now. It is just us again. He  has retired. He  can't go so fast anymore. He faithfully makes his way up to the wood pile every day and works it into shape. The wood sheds are full. Next years wood is piled neatly along the edge of the woods. It's a comforting feeling.
      Down at the house I can hear him. The smooth purr of the sawrig. The zing - zing of the  logs as they go through. The thunk - thunk of the splitter as the woods splits apart. All clean and yellow/white and fresh smelling.The chunk- chunk as he throws the wood in the trailer. The chug of the tractor as he brings the wood down to the wood shed. As much a part of my day as bird song and wind in the trees and wheels going by on the road. Always there, in the back of my mind, sounding of comfort and warmth  and sweat   and love and contentment.
      Any one who comes to see him, knows where to go. So often I see trucks heading up through the grass, disappearing around the curve. Then I hear the silence as he stops what he's doing and sits on a log or a tail gate to visit. Now sometimes he just stops to rest, too. The years come drifting back to him. In the warmth of the sunnshine, he thinks about them. The years, and the old friends and the old dogs. The children. The laughter. The smoke . He doesn't smoke anymore, but he can taste the memory of it on his tongue. He can squint through the smoke rings of his mind and conjure up the past. If he just turns quick enough, the old brown dog will be there. Where she always lay, under the trailer, in the shade on warm days. Or in the sunny spot in front of it on cool ones. When he stopped, then, she would come over to sit beside him. He would ruffle her ears, and he talked to her as though she was a person. She loved the sound of his voice, whether he talked to her in Finnish or English. She wagged her tail happily. He always said she was bi - lingual.
         He hears the words. The ones the old friends said when they came up behind him. They are almost clearer now, than then. Clearer from remembering them so long. They have left him, one by one. He can feel the loneliness, sometimes, up there at the wood pile. But it's a good kind of lonely. Because he knows how beautiful it was, and how beautiful it will be. The young man he was stands there in the shadows, too. Not mocking the age that has come to him. Just reminding him of how life spins an eternal circle. He smiles to himself when he remembers me. Young and pregnant, up there helping him in the cold and the dark. He remembers how impatient he was at times, when the boys were young. He sees the old many of them were there, over the yars? All Fords, of course. He remembers the old tractors, the old saws, the old Model A sawrig. They are all there with him, now. Now when he sits in the sun and looks at his wood piles.