Woman Enough

The Ritual of the Wood Pile

Posted in Uncategorized by womanenough on November 30, 2011


I spotted it on Friday afternoon; a newly delivered pile of wood in my parents’ front yard. A wave of enthusiasm washed over me, and some part of my body ached to stack a little wood. I woke up still thinking about it on Saturday, and by the time I actually made it up to their house, my father had most of the pile stacked into neat little rows. There was still a good third remaining, though, and I got my back, arms and legs into the familiar process; end, reach, lift, carry, stack, repeat. The pile grew.

When I was a kid, we relied heavily on wood heat, and there wasn’t much financial leeway, and thus most fall weekends were spent on the project of wood. It must be cut, split, and stacked, and generally this required the transfer of a large woodpile a couple times. transferring a wood pile is not like transferring twenty bucks from account A to account B. Each piece gets picked up, thrown into trailer or wheelbarrow, and emptied on the other end.

Wood is a process. It is methodical and tactile and your body remembers everything about it for a very long time. When I lived in city apartments, fall felt incomplete without the process of putting up wood.

I had a grandfather for whom wood was close to religion; he didn’t regard it as omnipotent, but the process of preparing the wood, building the fire, it was all steeped in ancient wisdom for him. The art of fires and firewood was lofty and he granted it reverence. It makes sense to me, to be in proper awe of this thing that grows free and wild and keeps us warm and turns chickens into something delicious.

Mama Tried also heats with wood, but ours is mostly scavenged building scraps that Elias splits with a rigging knife and a ninja impersonation on top of the battery box. Recently, I tried my hand at splitting it myself, and it’s the most amazingly therapeutic experience imaginable. I felt extraordinarily capable and productive, and maybe it’s because of my current career path, but that combination felt rare and special.

The wood we gather today is different from the wood pile of my youth, but it’s still part of that conflicted celebration Mainers engage in; the preparation for winter. We pretend that we hate the battle each year, but there’s palpable joy as we gather our weapons, log upon log, black the stove, and wait for winter to fall.

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2 Responses

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  1. Robin Peterson Lewis said, on March 27, 2012 at 1:14 pm

    we call stacking wood….”Family Fun”…..it is a ritual every late summer and early fall to cut, stack, AND cut, stack, and prepare our old house for the winter ahead. Ask my sons, Asa and Max and I am almost positive they would agree it is “Family Fun” haha! We have 75 acres, and if you ever feel the need to clean up some of the down trees and prepare your own woodpile, please feel free to come help us! …..remember….”Family Fun” 😉

    • womanenough said, on March 28, 2012 at 10:24 am

      We might take you up on that! I feel terrible that there are children who grow up having never been forced to stack wood with their parents! What a bleak existence.


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