IT’S A SOUL-SOOTHING SUNDAY on Center Island. Cool and cloudy, with light rain freshening the air with a scent like newly laundered sheets hung out to dry.
The post-Labor Day exodus has happened, and the island is quiet. Thirsty trees and parched moss are soaking up the life-giving liquid and the whole place has a nurturing feeling of rest and regeneration after a summer of crowds and dust.
For me, it’s lumberjack season.
The hints of coming winter have prompted me to put down my journalist’s pen — usually just a blue Bic — and pick up an orange-handled Fiskars splitting axe that I swing above my head like a mad conductor carried away by Tchaikovsky.
The Finns know how to make cutting implements. One good whack often renders a nice piece of firewood no longer than 15 inches so it fits in our Lopi wood stove.
I’ve devoted an hour on several recent afternoons to splitting some of the many large rounds of Douglas fir that we’ve stacked up over the past two years from trees that have come down on our property. Our island community has a gas-powered hydraulic wood splitter I could rent that would probably finish the job in a day. But I get such a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction from stacking wood I’ve cut myself. And instead of gas fumes, I just breathe the sweet perfume of pitch and sawdust.
Wood is our primary source of heat in The Nuthatch, and this will be the first winter in which we’ll have burned a fire every day instead of just on our monthly visits. I have no idea whether we’ll have enough firewood. So I chop. And when I think about winter and get a little nervous, I go chop some more.
It’s therapy, of a sort. And it beats the heck out of sitting in an office. Come December, I’ll let you know how the wood supply is holding up.
Meanwhile, in the immortal words of the Monty Python crew, I’m a lumberjack, and I’m OK. (And I am not hanging around in bars.)
“Chop your own wood and it will warm you twice.” — Henry Ford
NEXT WEEK: Posting from New Mexico, as Barbara and I visit my brother who recently moved to Taos. I’m told the jackrabbits are Paul Bunyan-size, and one can enjoy a game of “Spot the Coyote” while quaffing morning coffee on the deck.