Thursday, December 30, 2010

God And Details

No, not that really gay men's magazine. Come on, really.

Many years ago, Jess and I built a hearth with moss rock in the basement of Bending Tree Lane for mom and dad for a wood burning stove. Jess was the mason, I was the hodman. I think that was 1991.

While we sat by the stove one winter night, with the dogs laying close, she told how when she was little and staying with her Kading grandparents, her grandpa would come in from his winter barn chores, his favorite collie close behind, and would lay his barn jacket on the floor of the kitchen close to the stove, and the dog would curl up in it. Iowa winter winds are the stuff of legend.

This past Sunday, Jess, Al and I threw 3 chainsaws all up in an old elm that had fallen in Al's north field along his creek. We loaded up Jess's truck with almost 6 weeks of heating fuel and headed over to my place where we unloaded it neatly with much satisfaction in our work when we had finished.

We went inside where I rekindled the fire from the morning, visited for a bit, mostly about rototillers, chainsaw maintenance and snow removal. Jess took off shortly after to get back home before too dark.

It was a bitter cold, snowy, windy evening, so I got the fire roaring. Moonpie dog came in, finally, from her evening perimeter sweep. I looked at the pile of winter coats Jess and Jane had brought me from their closet the weekend before, and saw a big fake sheepskin coat that's way too big for me. I looked at Moonpie, who was looking at me, and I laid that coat on the floor close to the stove. She slowly sauntered up to it and curled right up in there and didn't move for nearly 3 hours.

It's hard for me to describe just how moved I was at that moment, a sort of perfect mix of sorrow and joy, pain and elation. Dare I say, redemption? It didn't last long, but it was unmistakable. The sun had just come out only long enough to set and cast the rose color on the snow that we used to call alpenglow in Winter Park.

We've repeated the ritual every night since. In fact, she's curled up there right now as I write this.

A very blessed New Year to you kind, decent, generous people, and I'll endeavor every day to deserve you folks.

P.S. I gave myself a wireless device for The Internets, so y'all aren't quite rid of me yet.


Michael said...

Excellent. Gotta love 6 weeks of fuel. Planting will here before we know it.

And a very Happy New Year to you and Moonpie.

Penal-Colony said...


Got right to the heart of loss.

Happy New Year.


bright said...

Looking forward to reading more. Many blessings to you in the New Year.

DragonTat2 said...

Made me cry. Again. I can feel the edges of heat as it first re-sparks. I love a good stove.
My daughter & her husband live in Ames, Iowa. She told me, too, it's a special kind of cold.

"A very blessed New Year to you kind, decent, generous people, and I'll endeavor every day to deserve you folks." ... back @ ya.

switters said...

Michael, bad days and, believe it or not, some pretty great days. One at a time, I guess.

P.C., every moment is loss. I'm just trying to justify how blessed I am while not taking anything for granted.

bright, I've had a crush on you for over 5 years, for obvious reasons, which you knew already. Noah, the oldest grandkid, gets married next month in Charleston, SC. I don't know yet what to do about Moonpie. Also, Jess has me talked into a really big French made tiller. He loves spending my money.

Dragon, congrats on your 3 years. There is nothing like the heat of a wood burner. It's a small one, a Vermont Castings Intrepid II. But it gets the job done.

Keifus said...

I'm sure I've mentioned it before, but I grew up with a wood stove. (My grandparents had one too--too cheap to pay good money for oil, a dash of self-reliance, all that.) Fond memories of of going to bed at 90 degrees and waking up at 40, but there's something very comforting about the heat it gives off. My parents' was (and still is) in the kitchen, though. Any dogs curling up near that thing could expect a boot, followed by obligatory curse.

rundeep said...

We heat our kitchen with a Vermont Castings stove. Funny, for the first 14 years we had it, the bastard smoked something fierce for no apparent reason. Some days it started cleanly, other days we left the house smelling like bacon and with red eyes from tears earned before we learned to open the windows first. The sweep who came annually to service the stove cursed it repeatedly and literally begged us to get a new one, contending he couldn't ever make it work properly. Then this year, the eldest of the sweep's seven children came to fix the stove instead of his dad. He's a sweet-faced kid with a ready smile and treats for the dogs. He took only maybe 90 minutes to clean the stove and the fireplaces and make sure it was okay. No bitching, no asking us to buy a new stove. This year, it works perfectly. No smoke, even when the wind whirls down into our little valley. Kids following parents can sometimes exceed your wildest expectations.

Have a marvelous year. Keep writing.

switters said...

Keif, Al claims that grandma Kading told him that the stove in the house she grew up in had the pipe going right upstairs through the floor into the bedrooms to heat them at night. Not sure that's up to code. But I swear if you continue to disparage my beloved Water World, I will go on and on about the profoundly sublime poetry of Katy Perry songs just to get John to come back.

rundeep, my VC burns like a dream. Jess scored me perfectly seasoned, dry cherry from his timber. Splits like you wouldn't believe, though you would. That kid and his dad sound like right out of a Berry novel. Did you happen to catch any of this season's The Sing Off?

rundeep said...

I did indeed and I was most impressed. Though the father-daughter thing creeped me out a little. And you know I'd be glued to any show with my Idol, Ben Folds, as a judge. He just cemented my adoration of his hot-smart-music-nerd self.

switters said...

This about Ben: he understands time feel. Oh, and he's a musical genius.

I'm obsessed with with Jimmy Fallon's cover of Willow Smith's "Whip My Hair". With The Boss. Also, really great holiday episodes of This American Life.

bright said...

I listened to 4 episodes of The Sing Off as Mr B was watching them on hulu last Friday. (Um, did that make sense? Anyhoo...) Ben is the best judge of anything ever. I want him moderating the next presidential debates.

Make sure you have a nice spot for that rhubarb. It's delicious.

twif said...

i missed your triumphant return. glad to read you are settled in and at home.

hope the holidays were good too.