Wood: of fire and fireworks.

It’s been a little while since I blogged (I’d decided to blog more often again this year, but seem to have strayed a little from that plan – I blame the tax return…)

So perhaps it seems a little odd to be blogging on a book on wood.  It was the book of the moment at Christmas.  We bought a copy for my brother-in-law.  My brother bought one for me.  I have to confess I was excited!

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We live in the countryside.  We have a large log fire.  We get through wood (especially when my brother-in-law is visiting, but that’s another story!).  We started out buying the stuff, but have since just bought a chainsaw.  When a tree falls over in our garden, it gets processed.  So a book on wood is right up my street.  It’s a book that goes into the sort of detail that most would perhaps find excessive.  There’s a whole chapter on the chopping block, for example.

But it wasn’t simply the focus on wood that I found most attractive when I read it.  It was more the general way of life which the book reflected and reflected upon.  The work involved in making fire is one that wraps around the seasons.  Preparation for Winter begins in the Spring.  Trees must be felled.  Wood must be dried.  A failure to prepare for Winter is dangerous if you rely on the warmth that the fire brings.  And the work of the warmer months is rewarded by the comfort and safety that fire brings in the winter.

Another seasonal problem for the woodcutter in the summer is the heat.  The work is arduous, and when temperatures rise you will find yourself sweating profusely inside your heavy protective clothing.  Besides the thirst and the headaches, the woodcutter will find himself tormented by the flies and midges that swarm from the branches when a tree has been felled.  A consolation for these discomforts is that memories of such hard times make the heat from each log burning in the grate that little bit warmer.

Perhaps this perspective is useful – the hard times, if used as times of preparation, can be part of the picture of seasons – one leads to another, the work done in one benefits another.  The hard work is for a purpose.  The book also speaks of a slower pace.  Our world (or at least the bit I live in) seems to operate at a frenetic pace.  Of course, much of this may be of benefit to certain aspects of life.  But when ‘overdrive’ is the only speed at which we travel, we’re in danger.  Our physical health is compromised, yes, but we also risk missing important things.  It’s tempting to assume we’ll miss less if we travel at speed, but of course that’s not completely true.  A job like woodcutting forces you to slow down (wielding an axe at speed is likely to cause trouble!).

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It’s also routine.  By that, I don’t mean that everyone does it (more’s the pity…)!  Rather, it’s a very repetitive activity.  Your first split log is much the same as the split log that finishes your fourth wheelbarrow load, except your arms might ache a little more by the latter.    And there’s something important about that routine, almost dull, nature of the work.  Often it seems that the ‘important’ jobs are those with glamour and glitz; those that excite and fufil.  The ‘firework’ jobs.  The ones that thrill and impress.  And yet those that meet a need through steady repetition have value too.  Without the logs being split, the fire would never be lit.

So what things are you doing that don’t fit the ‘exciting’ bracket, but still need to get done?  Do you need a reminder that those jobs are just as vital?  Those jobs need to be done for the sake of those you’re serving.  The split log, the changed nappy, the taxi service, the handing out books at the back of church, the blog posted.  Putting out the bins, the commute to another day doing the same thing you did yesterday.  Firework jobs are fun, and garner greater praise, but without someone to make sure the fire’s lit, we’re going to get cold.

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