The storm knocked out the power several months ago.
A branch from the silver poplar in the yard hit the wires.
“Should have been pruned back years ago,” the power company guy was saying that morning.
“Where do you want the wood?” he asked me.
Days later the owner came by, an older guy with a shy smile and a slow country walk, even here in the middle of town.
“Let’s leave it there,” he said. “I want most of it for my stove and heater this winter, but you keep some of it for the fireplace. I’ll come by and get it in a couple of months.”
I said thanks and left the wood where it lay.
The rains came early this year. The pile sat below the hill and while it was in a good place to dry in the summer sun, it was now getting more wet with the hard rain that falls steady here during the fall and winter.
No sign of the owner or his crew, no response to several messages to come and get the wood. Seemed a good time to move the pile out of the weather.
I picked up the first round. Oak, I think — heavy like oak, anyway — and moved across the deck to a spot under the stairs. Walked back and did it again. I moved steadily, if slowly, over the afternoon.
The wood pile became a stack of rounds piled under the stairs, lit up by the now setting sun.
I was tired and sore. I’m not used to hauling wood rounds much these days. I ate some soup and went to lie down on the couch. I turned on the Jazz Show on the local NPR station. After awhile I got up to light a fire in the fireplace, using kindling from last year and several pieces of the summer wood.
The fire caught. I lay back down, listening as Chick Corea returned from nowhere on the radio. I smiled at the idea of smoke drifting across this particular room. It seemed, well, almost holy.
I awoke much later in the cold, dark, early morning. The smell of burnt oak and poplar in the room, and maybe sage from a long lost Cheyenne prayer relic, caused me to wonder where I was.
Who was this old man whose back hurt and whose arms were sore as if he had worked all day in the woods, setting choker in the first growth cedar out by Poets Nook on the Alberni Canal? Where was the sound of the ocean as it broke on the reefs in the outer channel and washed up on the beach, nearly a hundred yards away? Where was the Franklin with the dented kettle on the burner, steaming slowly into the quiet breathing of his sleeping newborn son, and his own coming days of fatherhood?
I went to sleep in my bed then, as if it had all been a dream.
“Woodpile” rachaelvoorheees @ flickr. Creative Commons. Some rights reserved.