Sunday, September 15, 2013

Dry Firewood Sermon

                             Today I was stacking firewood. This wood has been hanging around all summer in a big pile beside the driveway. It has been rained on, blazed on in ninety degree heat, dried and drenched continuously for six months. Whatever chemical process that happens to split wood that makes it eager to burn has happened. When winter comes and I stuff it into my woodstove, a little fire will expand into a big fire in a hurry. There will be a puff or two of whitish smoke, then within five minutes my fire will be smokeless and a big fireball will fill the window in the wood stove's door. Now time to shut down the air and close off the damper. It is undesirable to turn your house into an oven. Adjusting the fire will provide a low, long lasting and efficient fire, a fire that will inspire contemplation of the fire in Hell. If your firewood is dry.
     A tree that was cut down before spring sap and split before summer will provide dry firewood. Dry firewood is fun to burn; a tree you have cut down in fall, split leisurely and expect to burn after first snow is not fun to burn. Some people believe in wood sheds. They split the wood and stack it in the wood shed and then they claim in a month it will be dry. Wood sheds are good if you happen to have teenage children. But unless the wood is in the sun it never seems to dry as I like it. If you have dry firewood, when you get up in the morning and sweep the ashes off the big clunks of coals, there will be still a dull red flame. Stuff in a few smaller logs, and a big log or two on top, and grab that dusty paperback copy of Anna Karenina and find the page you quit at before bed…probably make some coffee after a bit…and have a good time because shortly the fire will roar and heat will flood the house.
     This firewood I am stacking today lands with a solid heavy clunk when I drop it down. Let me remember when I got it. Yes, it was a breezy, bitter cold week in March. There was a foot of snow on the big logs which had been downed just after Christmas. No easy task to shovel away the snow.
     My chainsaw doesn't care how cold it is. Likely not much help in my task on a day like today. My neighbor Richard dropped by.
     "Running out of firewood?" He wondered.
     "No," says I, "next winter's."
     Surely he must know that next winter will need its heat and firewood same as this winter did.
     "Now why didn't I know that?" He says ambiguously, as if I must be some kind of damned fool to be out on such a day cutting firewood for eight months hence, when I could be inside enjoying the fire I've got.
     And no help will please a fool who's in a hurry.
     So he left me alone that day.
     But the months have passed and now I am stacking on a breezy day of ominous shadows for winter may be a bare few weeks away, and my firewood is dead, stone dry and will burn like the pools of fire in Hell. And while my feet are up on my easy chair beside my blazing woodstove, and I am enjoying life, praise the Lord, the young fellow down the hill is fighting with just split firewood and his house is freezing, and a great sooty smoke cloud from his chimney blots the sky same as last year, and the year before.
     Then it occurs to me, "How must God know I am down here for there is no sign coming out my chimney? while the young idiot down the hill is filling the sky with an advertisement of his distress, and near the edge of burning his house down."
     Now there is a particular good chunk of ash. I handle it fondly, thinking perhaps I should set it aside in a pile for an especially cold night. I'd just as soon God was not noticing me and counting the hairs on MY head. I'm pleased just to get by on my own.

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