You are reading the words of a man who feels, at least for the moment, that he’s done what he can to provide for his family. And I feel good about that. Warm, even.
A quick look out into the back yard will tell the tale: firewood. Every year at about this time, I get a nagging feeling that I’m neglecting some responsibility, some father/grandfather’s sacred task, and then it hits me: time to get the firewood.
Truth be told, I usually don’t have to wait long enough for a nagging feeling. School starts. (Pretty much in the middle of summer.) We start talking about “fall” when the school calendar proclaims it. (We mean the semester, but the season will tag along presently.) Then foggy mornings. Colder mornings. Then Daylight Saving Time quits saving, goes bankrupt, and liquidates its stash of light. It’s dark even before the TV weather prognosticator comes on-camera at 6:00 p.m. or so to mention that, wow, our evening and morning temps are surely taking a dive. And they are. And the leaves are starting to turn colors and turn loose. Some of a tougher sort are getting red in the face from holding on too tightly.
My wife starts warning me, “We’ve gotta start getting the plants in.” When I hear “we,” I usually react as if her index finger was stuck in my chest. It’s really not, and she really will help me on this. But getting the plants “in” means a massive clean “out” of my shed/greenhouse/man-cave. I always dread that. I was out of town one time about this time when the freeze frosted early, and my valuable assistance was unavailable. Was it during the Clinton administration? I don’t remember, but she does.
All of this is evidence, you know. Seasons. Seasonal warning. Pumpkins coming. Trick or treaters lining up. Temps plummeting.
Somewhere, slogging along in the midst of the evidence, I look across the living room and see a rather dark and lonely fireplace still harboring very dark and lonely candles. We almost never light them. In fact, it is their dreaded (by me) appearance in the spring that spells death to real fires.
But now? Bingo! It’s time! Order the firewood! Away with you, flame-less candles! The turkey will soon be basting, most of us thinking about thanking the Author of all blessing, lights twinkling (I’m at 300 and shootin’ for 600 LED lights in my man-cave, grandchild-magic-light-castle shed), and another Yuletide of hope, life, and love is sledding this way. Those qualities are all the more precious because they can be in such short supply in this world.
Yes, this year, I’m on time! More firewood than ever, stacked high, giving my old sagging fence a face-lift. Beautiful. And more beautiful still as it soon reaches its firewood apotheosis. (Lit!) And my family? Provided for.
Bring on the hot chocolate and the snow! And, coming on the scene a few days after the sacrifice of the turkey, A Christmas Carol. My annual reading of Dickens’ masterpiece. The annual watching(s). PawPaw and his co-conspirator grandkids not-so-patiently explaining to his kids/their parents that it matters not in the least that we know four lines ahead and have already seen three film versions this year. Oh, dear parents of my grandchildren, you who will one day be old enough to be young again and re-sprout imaginations, do you not realize that the fact that your children and I already have seen this and heard this and loved this many times before . . . Do you not realize that this is precisely the point?
In the midst of all of this holiday activity and tradition, I have the serious feeling that firewood matters in an integral and mysterious way.
I still prefer the real stuff. But I now admit that the new gas log fireplaces can be quite beautiful and look more than ever like real real-log fireplaces. I even admit that, if I ever build a mansion or McMansion or really large house, I plan to have in my bedroom a gas fireplace that can be fired up via one hand and a remote control stuck out from under the bed covers. complete with its own remote control. But any living room I build will boast a fireplace faithfully burning genuine firewood. I want a real reason to have real firewood stacked out back. And I want the smell. For myself. For the neighbors. I feel a responsibility here.
So, yes, I’ve stocked up on firewood yet again. It should’ve come in an armored car complete with machine gun-wielding guards. But I love it too much to fuss too much. That many BTUs of joy are worth what they cost. One more year, I’ve done my job.
When I read rich, hope-filled words, words such as the Apostle Paul’s in 2 Corinthians 1 where he calls our Father “the God of all comfort,” I seem to instinctively equate comfort with warmth. Because, as you know, so much here is cold. And barren. And hard. But what Elizabeth Seton wrote two centuries ago is still true: “Jesus is a fire in the very center of our souls ever burning.” Yet, she warned, “we are cold because we do not stay by it.”
Let’s not be cold. Let’s stay by the fire.
You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com, and I hope you’ll take a look there at my new “Focus on Faith” Podcast. At the website, just click on “Podcast.” Blessings!
Copyright 2022 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.