Blue Ridge Country November/December 2020 - 64

SINGING IN THE GARDEN

Three Times Warm
Text and art by GINNY NEIL

I

t starts in the summer. As we walk through our
woods checking fence lines or searching for missing
sheep, my husband and I look for something else
as well: dying or dead trees,
still standing, but no longer
living. Future firewood. We
note the location. We'll be
back when the weather cools.
Before I moved to the mountains, I never thought much
about where my heat came from.
I didn't need to. There was a
thermostat in every room of the
house so winters were warm and
summers were cool: at least inside.
Here in my high valley, summers are cool because a breeze
sifts through each window. Winters are warm because a woodstove glows in the great
room. But, the woodstove won't fill itself. It requires
work, and that work is first pondered in the summer with
the spotting of those trees.
Woodcutting begins as the leaves start their show. On

the first cool day, we load the pick-up with a splitting
maul, some chainsaws, a gas can, some oil, a file and a
gallon jug of ice water. Wood-cutting is thirsty work.
I call woodcutting work, but it
is really pleasure disguised as work.
The skies are high and blue. The air
is crisp. Woodpeckers pound and
squirrels scold. The limbs above us
hold up the roof of sky. We will
sweat and breathe hard and lift and
load. We will be pleasantly tired by
the end of the day.
Woodcutting is also family
time. Our sons join us and the air
fills with the smell of dry oak chips
and the buzzing of saws. While the
men are cutting limbs and logs into
lengths small enough for me to toss
onto the truck, I explore the snags
and nurse logs scattered across the forest.
The average traveler in the woods won't see these leftover logs and tree trunks as anything more than a rotten
length of wood, but they are full of secrets and surprises.
Picture this: a tree dies. It doesn't fall right away. First it

And if you look, perhaps you'll
see, all the forest in a tree.
-GN

64

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Blue Ridge Country November/December 2020

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