The wood stove is aglow right now, the coals of the last log a neon red-orange pulsing bright through the glass doors. All day, Kiddo and I have been playing and working in measured time, no matter how busy we get, always coming back to the wood stove to add another piece of wood to a hot pile of coals, watch it catch flame and blaze, then close the draught so that the catalytic converter can draw the most energy from the log it burns. It's been the rhythm of my day today, as Kiddo introduces counter melodies of "I'm hungry. I want something to eat." and "Play with me now, Mommy." Heat, food and entertainment... it really can't get any more elemental with a three year old.
Today was my prep day and as the weather was miserable, we hung out at home, tending the fire and taking care of all the little bits that make the week. A head-to-toe houseclean as usual, and some extra-special work, prepping snowflake-shaped lacing cards for the children to draw yarn through tomorrow. This little project took more time than I would have thought: making the first snowflake on typing paper by tracing a plate's circle, cutting it out, folding in half,then thirds, and pray for some semblance of symmetry, cut out snowflake and trace onto card stock three times, cut out each and then use a hole punch around the edges to create a path for the lacing. Kiddo sat next to me, cutting his own work with scissors and then having fun using the hole punch and trying to push his own piece of yarn through the paper. We used up nearly an hour doing this and when I set the lacing cards aside for tomorrow, I was glad we'd had this stretch of time to just relax and chat while we worked.
More than once today I thought of Laura Ingalls Wilder and her homes growing up; the one-room cabins in both Wisconsin and Kansas that still live on in my mind. I can't help but think that the fireplace and wood stove was the center of everything in their lives, most especially when the autumn and winter blew in on the air. Winter seems to be a state of mind more than a calendar season any more; not yet Thanksgiving, and now there's snow being talked about? I felt like Laura today, a steward to the fire and a guardian of the wood. In "On the Banks of Plum Creek", Wilder recounts the bravery of young Laura, going out into a blizzard to get more wood for the fire, lest it go out while Ma and Pa have gone to town. Aware, even then, that people had died doing the same. Did she use a rope or guideline to help her? I can't remember. I just know that I find it hard to picture some of the kids today, texting and sulking over their computers and all that they have which makes life too easy, braving a windy snowstorm without the help of Gore-Tex or Columbia Sportswear to bring in the woodpile.
Years ago, when we got our wood stove (courtesy of our anxiety regarding Peak Oil), Joe ordered a half-cord of wood. Mt Scott Fuel came and dropped it off at the bottom of our skinny little driveway, wet and dirty, leaving me to haul and stack it, pieces at a time, on a cold day in a rainstorm. I can't remember how long it took, but my clothes were soaked and before it was over, I'd slipped into that giddy euphoria of "I'm doing something physically exhausting and slightly stupid in the worst of the elements, tee hee! Yeay for me!" that others might describe as a "runner's high". This is as close as I'll get to that, as I don't really, ahem, run, per se, more like bounce all over until my ankles twist and make Joe laugh. I'll let him run for me, thanks. And I would've let him stack the wood, but truth be told, I'd seen that pile of wood and it was like some sort of crazy Mt. Everest thing, where mountain climbers are held in its thrall--I have to climb it! That wood had to be stacked; it had to be stacked, and I had to be the one to do it. Alone. This huge pile of wood, askew, had called me like some sort of tedious urban vision quest. I wasn't going to see anything new, except the tricks of the fog and rain on my eyeglasses. There was some sort of point of pride I now realize I never need to earn to myself ever, ever again. Which just goes to show you that I did keep my sanity after all.
The coals are gone, now, the fire gone to bed for the evening. It's been a relaxing day, and I'm looking forward to preschool tomorrow, entering the rhythm of the next two days. I'm grateful for Thanksgiving this week, if only for Joe getting an extra day off. Our house is filled with winter traditions everywhere: paperwhites being forced in jars, apple cider being warmed up, cinnamon on pears and apples, and a full woodbox, waiting for me to open it up tomorrow and warm up our cozy little bungalow once again.