Ponder this:

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Wood stove versus forelimbs and other body parts

Every year I enter into an inexorable battle with firewood and the wood stove.  There is a fatefulness in my approach to the season. I know I'm going to suffer somehow in connection with keeping the home fire burning, but I don't know, in advance, what form the injuries will take, or the frequency. Don't tell me it's merely a matter of paying attention: It's all chance -- or in the hands of gremlins and goblins.

One year, you might remember, I dropped a very heavy piece of firewood onto my stocking-footed big toe, breaking the nail and leading to a long firewood-related association with my podiatrist. That was due, I admit, entirely to my enthusiasm for getting the wagon loaded and the firewood into the house, mistimed to coincide with my half-asleep just-home-from-work state of consciousness. I still bring in firewood as soon as I get home from work, with my eyes at half-mast from the relaxation of escape. I still pitch it, piece by piece, into the wagon with some speed and vigor. The evidence of having learned from my errors is this: I wear shoes now while I do it. Who says you can't teach an old dog?

Once the wood is indoors, in the woodbox next to the stove, there remains the challenge of getting it into the stove. Challenging enough when it's a cold stove and a yet-to-be-born fire. The new stove has a much bigger opening than the old one, but when the chore is to add wood to a nearly molten stove, the door to the firebox still seems to shrink by twenty or thirty percent.  Picture John Tenniel's Father William-shaped me bent double, head down and angled on my neck, trying to see inside the stove so as to aim the log. My face glows red, my hands hold a small oddly-shaped log that must be inserted at an exact angle so it doesn't get stuck half in and half out. (I've done that, too, and had to wait until the inside end burned enough to jam the rest of the thing in.) Last year, or the year before, I accomplished, by accident, something I would not have been able to do with days of planning. I managed to burn the very same spot on back of my forearm, five inches above my wrist, not once and not twice, but three times. At least one of the burns landed on top of a burn earned only the day before. I thought the scar, once it became a scar instead of an oozing wound, would last forever, but I can hardly find it now.

Last night I was extraordinarily mindful while I attended the fire. I had just drunk a cup of coffee spiked with Hershey's powdered cocoa, sugar and milk (delicious!) and my eyes were as wide open and alert as ever they get. The wood in the stove had burned down a good deal; there was a lot of room to add the planned few logs. I chose, from the woodbox to my right, a diminutive piece of firewood. It was triangular and, at its widest point, six inches in diameter. I  slid it with optimistic rapidity into the pulsing, glowing red maw. The far end hit a snag, causing the near end -- the one in my fingers -- to ricochet downward. 
Toward the red-gold coals on the floor of the firebox.
Thank goodness for caffeine and whatever it is in cocoa that's like caffeine but isn't. I was alert! My reflexes were onboard and active! The message from my eyes ("Fire!") went to my brain and the brain quickly sent back the message: "The fingers will melt! Away!"
My forearm jerked upward, away from the viciously blazing coals. Excellent. No burning flesh on the fingertips.
The back of my hand met the top of the opening with the force of a Bjorn Borg backhand, causing immediate swelling. And pain. Exacerbated by the fact that the cast iron around the opening was nearly as hot as the coals from which I was in flight.
This latest mark is an inch thumbward from my wrist, and is spectacularly bruised and puffy, with a nicely ruffled edge of melted-and-set flesh on one side. It's only about an inch long, and it's in a spot that doesn't get a lot of friction in my daily life, so it isn't so painful -- only yet another scar in my annual battle with the wood stove. 

It's only late November. 
Wood stove season will go on for another four months, at least. 

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Speaking of dialects

I've been thinking about how much I love listening to and practicing accents. I think that some people are good at dialects and some aren't. I think it's a right brain/left brain thing, something along those lines. Just as some people can draw and some people can't.

A few Thanksgivings ago, my sister got down my book of Uncle Remus stories. I know they're politically incorrect now, but I remember my mother reading them to me in the afternoons after Lunch, before Nap, and I like the tales, so I keep the thing on the shelf.

When I was little and we lived on the farm that my grandmother's grandfather had built, there was an old old wicker wheelchair in the barn. The wicker back and seat were all broken and curled outward, and it had been a long time since the axle had received any attention. One summer we dug it out and spent what seems like weeks wheeling each other around in it. I got way more rides than my sister did because she was bigger and I was too weak to make the thing move forward empty, almost, never mind with her in it. It was a rough ride, and I was little. I remember holding on for dear life so I wouldn't bounce out as my sister rolled me across the yard. Sometimes it felt as if she wanted me to bounce out.

Imagine sitting in that antique wheelchair. 
Now . . . make the wheels square instead of round. 
Imagine yourself sitting in that broken out seat while someone, perhaps a brutish older sister, pushes you across uneven ground. 
Can you feel that?

That's what it sounded like when my sister read aloud, to all of us, from The Complete Tales of Uncle Remus.


I wrote this post and then left to go to the store. On the way there, I heard a radio program about Sarah Jones and her one-woman show wherein she becomes many different women, at least to the ear. Sometimes I think ideas float around in the atmosphere and land in different places at the same time. How else to explain that particular coincidence?

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Mrs. Cole

Mrs. Cole was born and raised in a certain part of London, but has lived in the US nearly all of her adult life. Still, she has her accent -- when she says her name her lips make a perfect round O -- and I love to see her. Not only for the accent, but because she is A Character. 

The first time I met her she came in absolutely ranting about the village's quarterly charge for refuse collection.
"Why, I never! In LONDON we never 'ad to pay a PENNY to have the trash collected. We putTit out and it wenTaway!" 
Her jaw was dropped and her blue eyes were wide. Her thick brown and silver hair vibrated in a fat bun. Despite her outrage I could see that some of her bombast was simply for the fun of having her say. I went to the counter, stood to one side of Phyllis, who was taking the begrudged payment. I just wanted to watch. I love accents and I love characters, and I was delighted with this particular show. The third or fourth time she said something about how much better the London system was, I couldn't help myself . . . I offered: "Aaaaaaaaaaaaaa, but y'came 'EEEAH, DI'N'Tya?" 
Her head whipped toward me, her face agape. I do believe she thought I was another import. If I had thought I would be able to maintain the dialect, I would've continued, but I couldn't do it. 

She was in the other day to pay the same kind of bill. She had her pug dog with her and we had a lovely long chat about how wonderful dogs are. 
"I wouldn' say this to EV'rybuddy, you know . . . but there ARE times when I like him BET'a' than I like the kids!" and she . . . chortled.

I do love to see Mrs. Cole. I replay our conversations for days afterward, trying to mimic her vowel sounds. 
"I 'ad decided I wouldn' getTanother dog, because . . . after all . . . I'm AYTEE years old. But I saw him and I 'ad 'im named within thirty seconds!"
A woman after my own heart.