THE WOODSTOVE – A BIT OF ECOLOGICAL FICTION

The woodstove had been in the family a long time. No one really knew how long, but a few of generations for sure. It had heated the family home for years.

Now the house had real central heating, so the woodstove had been relegated to a corner in the basement for a dozen years or more. It was unclear exactly when it was originally consigned to that odd dusty corner where unused but valued things end up.  The goodfers. Too good to throw away but maybe someday they’d have a new purpose.

For a while the family figured they’d put the stove in the parlor. Or maybe they’d get around to finishing the basement. It turned out the woodstove was too efficient to use like a fireplace. The amount of heat it pushed out its fat little belly was impressive. Log by log, it turned anything but a very large, open area into a sauna. It was much more efficient than oil heat and cheaper too, but oil heat was easy. No one had to split endless piles of logs, stack them in the woodshed, haul them into the house to feed the stove. It cost more money to heat with oil, but no one’s back got broken to keep the house warm.MaineCabinTXT

The woodshed still contained some wood. Enough to enjoy bright fires on cold evenings and keep the wood chopping skills of the men in the family up to snuff. But they didn’t need dozens of cords. It had taken a lot of wood to keep a family cozy through the long, bitter winter of northern Maine.

The year that Hank built the cabin, the woodstove found a new home and a purpose.

Hank built the cabin entirely by hand. It was to be a retreat, a place to get away from everything modern, from televisions and alarm clocks. Hank didn’t own the land, but the lumber company that owned it was willing to lease plots to families who wanted to build cabins by the lake. After the trees grew to maturity, the lumber companies would come and cut the trees, but it would be years before the trees were ready for harvesting.

The cabin was intended to be a warm weather retreat, just for the summer. It turned out to be so pleasant, despite it having no electricity or running water, family members and their friends liked going to it from early spring into the late autumn, sometimes even after the first snows had fallen.

The woodstove was ready and willing to keep the cabin toasty. It gave more than heat. The smell of the woodstove was friendly, familiar. The tang of smoke in the air reminded everyone how their houses used to smell of wood smoke. They recalled choosing wood for its scent. Apple, maple, sassafras, oak, even pine … each had special qualities.

It turned out you could cook on the stove too, though the technique of cooking on a woodstove was sufficiently different that each person who used it had to reinvent the process.

Over many years, many springs, summers and autumns spent by the lake, listening to the loons calling across the water, the woodstove came to symbolize a simple and peaceful life. It was the heart of a cabin deep in the woods, far from a paved road. Drinking water came directly from the lake, along with a goodly number of fresh water bass and trout, caught from the canoe and consumed with corn harvested from local farms, blueberries picked on nearby burns.

Even in cool weather, you could bathe in the lake, then warm your chilled body by the stove. It was where you hung your clothes to dry them after washing. The same place around which everyone gathered in the evening to tell stories. Once upon a special time, a quiet time, telling stories and laughing around a fire or an old woodstove was enough entertainment for any man or woman. Rowing on a crystal lake was fine. No one needed a speed boat. Friends were enough.

As the years rolled on, many people with cabins on the lake bought generators so they could have electricity. They installed washing machines. The lake water was no longer safe to drink. They brought televisions and at night, you couldn’t hear the calling loons. There were telephones, water pumps and plumbing.

It wasn’t the same and after a while, no one came to the little cabin. Hank passed away, the kids moved away. The cabin began to collapse.  Finally, it was gone, its contents including the woodstove, junk, rotting and rusting in the woods. It was as if it had never been.

It didn’t matter anyway, because enough years had passed. The trees were mature. The lumber companies came and clear-cut the woods. The rubble from the cutting washed into the lake and the fish died.  With the fish gone, the loons  didn’t have enough to eat and they flew off to nest on other lakes.

That world went away. Memories linger. I have pictures.

LINES AND CREASES – RICH PASCHALL

Faded Photographs –

by Rich Paschall, Sunday Night Blog


People still collect them.  Perhaps not as ardently as they once did, but they still get them.  They order them online.  They print them at home. They might even go to the store to order them.  There is something about having it in your hand that beats looking at it on your phone or even your desk top computer.  At one time, taking your film to be developed and having pictures printed was a big thing.  A really big thing.

I guess there are still stores that specialize in printing pictures, but they are all online shops.  I can download pictures to the drug store and go get prints.  I can take a flash drive to Walgreens where a teenager will print my pictures and might even thank me for coming (okay, probably not the latter).

I have used online services to print vacation pictures in the past, but not so much anymore.  I usually keep them all on SD cards, flash drives and folders on my desktop.  This means I am not likely to find them if I need them in a hurry, unless they are still in my camera or phone.

Despite this drifting away from the printed photographs, I still have plenty of pictures.  I don’t mean hundreds, I mean countless thousands of them.  I know I could probably hold them all on a large flash drive or two, but that is now.  Then we had no other way to enjoy our pictures but to take the film to the photo shop (Fotomat?) and have them developed.

faded photograph

After dropping off a roll or two of film, we would anxiously wait up to a week to find out if we actually captured what we saw in the view finder.  If we really wanted a picture of something we might take more than one shot, but since there was no deleting a bad one and taking another, we would just hope for the best.  Film cost money, and prints cost money too.  There was no buying an SD card and using it over and over.  We had no built-in flash on our cheap cameras so we had to buy one use flash bulbs, flash bars, flash cubes or whatever was in fashion for the camera model we had.

My mother had every type of cheap camera there was over the years.  She used every film format that came along for small “pocket” cameras.  There was 110 and 126 film.  There were film discs, a short-lived idea.  There were cameras that had to be wound and others with auto advance.  When the camera broke, we would get another.  For a while there was even a Polaroid camera for the joy of instant prints.  The joy faded quickly, like the prints themselves.

When my mother passed away, we found a camera that had 126 film in it and most of the shots had been taken.  There is no telling how many years the film was in the camera.  It is a good bet she had not used the camera in 15 years, perhaps much longer since she had an odd collection of cheap, working cameras.  I could never find anyone to develop that film, and I do not live in a remote location!  I am sure there is someone who would do it, but I doubt it was worth the money it would probably take to get it done.  Perhaps it is washed out by now anyway.

Still, we have countless pictures from my mother.  The number tailed off at the beginning of the century.  A stroke in 2003 put an end to the picture-taking hobby.  By then, she had boxes and bags full of pictures.  Many were in the photo envelopes you got back from the developer.  Fortunately, most of those were dated.  If the date was summer but they were Christmas pictures, then they were from the previous Christmas.  Mom was not too quick about getting to the Photo shop or Osco Drug to get them developed.  Was the joy in just going around family events with a camera in hand?

Mom in early 1920s

In the year that followed my mother’s death at the age of 88, I spent a lot of time shipping off hundreds of pictures to my brother, sometimes in frames, and organizing the rest into bags.  There are the 1920’s and 1930’s, clearly taken by someone else.  The 1940’s were not a particularly big collection, but the decades that followed contained many pictures.  Despite the ones my brother now has, I am left with more than I could count.  What to do with all these pictures?

Mom (left) and sister, circa 1950

The months organizing them into decades and shipping some off was all the nostalgia I needed from this group.  I doubt seriously I will ever haul them out of the closet to look at them again.  In whatever years I have left on the planet, I can not imagine spending time gazing at these memories, especially since some are best forgotten.  But I could not imagine dumping them either.  What would you do with thousands of prints?

After contemplating the matter for a while I realized that the parents of my living cousins are in many of these pictures.  Many faded photographs may be welcome at the home of these first and second cousins for the memories they contain, even if they are “covered now in lines and creases.”

WHAT FOREST?

CAN YOU SEE THE FOREST FOR THE TREES?


As early as the 1500s, “you can’t see the forest for the trees” was in wide enough use that it was published in collections of proverbs and slang. As anyone who has been in a forest knows, it can be easy to fall into the trap of just looking at the individual trees, rather than considering the forest as a whole.


According to the “saying,” it’s really easy to lose the forest while you are looking at a tree.

Is that true? When you look at a tree, do you forget you’re in a forest? Is it that easy to forget the larger picture because you can only see part of it? Do we forget we are in a city because we’re looking at a building? Do we forget we are reading a book because we are looking at one page? At the risk of arguing with a “known fact,” I don’t need to see the whole city to know I’m in one.

Meanwhile, I really do live in a forest. Not an allegorical or metaphorical forest. We have a whole lot of trees covering a substantial amount of terrain. Our house is right on the edge of it. The forest is primarily red oak trees, with some other hardwood and a bare hint of pine. We used to have a walnut tree, but it went down in a hurricane years back.

If you live in a woods, it’s true that you can’t see the whole forest, but it doesn’t mean you don’t know it’s there.

Unless you looking down from a helicopter, you will never see the whole forest, yet I’m sure all of us can deduce, infer, and assume the larger picture. Whether or not you can see it in its entirety changes nothing. You see trees, but your brain believes “forest.” Not seeing the whole picture does not mean you don’t know there is one

Photo: Garry Armstrong

How many trees I can see from my house depends on where I am. From the back deck, I see forest. Fewer trees from the front or side of the house. But what’s the difference between the forest and the trees? Isn’t a forest just a bunch of trees? How many trees do you need before it’s a forest (rather than a bunch of trees)? Is there a definition?

Despite this, I bet you can tell the different between a group of trees and a forest every time, without assistance.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

Parts of things embody the spirit of the whole. This is how we understand our world and ourselves. No matter what piece you look at, you retain awareness of its connection to something larger. We are individuals, but part of a family, a company, clan, tribe. Humanity as a whole. Without this fundamental grasp of reality, we could not live in the world.

So how do you know whether you’re looking at a single tree, or standing at the edge of a forest? Look around. If you see a lot more trees, put your money on “forest.” If you see a parking lot and a Walmart sign? Think “mall.” Of course, the Walmart could be at the edge of the forest. but I think you’ll work it out.

ART IS HUMAN

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Whatever else you can say about humans, we are — as far as I know — the only species that creates art. Any kind of art. For any reason.

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The belief that art is not for everyone is relatively new. The Chinese, as far back as the Song Dynasty, made art for the royal court … but they also created art for peasants and servants.

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Their belief — with which I agree — was that everyone needs art. There is no one so poor, uneducated, or unimportant to not deserve some beauty in their lives.

macro fuchsia

Art — not speech, nor the opposable thumb — is what sets us apart from other creatures. Beauty for its own sake is a very human thing.

Tang horse

Beautiful things soften the edges of our lives. What is beautiful to me may not be your idea of beauty, but that’s unimportant. What is important is that the place you live, the place that nourishes you be a place that feeds your soul, your heart, your eyes. Through color, texture, smell, shape.

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It doesn’t even have to be “official” art. Whatever feeds that piece of you where beauty lives, you need some of that, to see it, touch it, have it with you.

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If you don’t know what you need this Christmas? Buy yourself — or someone you love — something beautiful. Feed a soul this holiday season.

TREES AND THE FOREST

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YOU CAN’T SEE THE FOREST FOR THE TREES.

As early as the 1500s, “you can’t see the forest for the trees” was in wide enough use that it was published in collections of proverbs and slang. As anyone who has been in a forest knows, it can be easy to fall into the trap of just looking at the individual trees, rather than considering the forest as a whole.

Is it really that easy to forget the larger picture if you can only see part of it? Do we forget we are in a city because we’re looking at a building? Really?

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I live in a forest. Not an allegorical or metaphorical one. The real deal. Mainly oak. Some sassafras, maple, and beech. A hint of pine. We used to have a walnut tree, but it went down in a hurricane a few years back.

If you live in a woods, it’s hard to see the forest, but that doesn’t mean you don’t know it’s there. Unless you looking down from above, you can never see a whole forest. But we deduce, infer, assume the larger picture.

Whether or not you can see it changes nothing. You eyes see trees, but your brain knows otherwise. Not seeing the whole picture does not mean you don’t know there is one

window late afternoon

How many trees I can see from my house depends on where I am. From the back deck, I see forest. Fewer trees from the front or side of the house. But what’s the difference between the forest and the trees? Isn’t a forest just a bunch of trees? How many trees do you need before it’s a forest (rather than a bunch of trees)? Is there a definition?

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Despite this, I bet you can tell the different between a group of trees and a forest every time, without assistance.

We don’t need to see the whole forest to know it’s there.

Parts of things embody the spirit of the whole. This is how we understand our world and ourselves. No matter what piece you look at, you retain awareness of its connection to something larger. We are individuals, but part of a family, a company, clan, tribe. Humanity as a whole. Without this fundamental grasp of reality, we could not live in the world.

72-Amerherst-Downtown

So how do you know whether you’re looking at a single tree, or the edge of a forest? Look around. If you see more trees, put your money on “forest.” If you see a parking lot or a giant Walmart sign? Think “mall.”

SERENDIPITY PHOTO PROMPT 2015-6

SERENDIPITY PHOTO STORY PROMPT

WEDNESDAY – 2015 #6

Welcome to Frisbee Wednesday where we celebrate … well, whatever. Mainly, we try to write something about a picture. This week’s picture is my own, beloved plastic pal, Toni — by Ideal. She is older than she looks, having be born in 1953. Yet there is not a single wrinkle in her face!

Please try to add your own ping back (links). If you aren’t sure how to do it, put your link in a comment. That works too.

Every Wednesday or until I throw in the towel, I’ll publish a picture and write something about it. You can use any of my pictures — or one of your own — as a prompt. If you find my subject interesting, by all means, extrapolate. Any length is acceptable from a couple of sentences, to a chapter from your upcoming novel.

Please link it back to this post (ping back) so other people can find it.

WHAT DO I MEAN BY “STORY” AND “PICTURES”?

Story. Words. Poetry, prose, fact, or fiction. A couple of lines, a fanciful tale.

Pictures. Video if that’s your thing. Scanned pictures from your scrap-book. Weird pictures from the internet. Cartoons. Pictures of your family vacation and how the bear stole your food. Any picture you ever took and would like to talk about.

SIMPLE

It sounds simple. It is simple. Every picture has a story or ought to. There are no rules. Follow my lead, ignore me, follow someone else’s idea. Any picture plus some text. Short or long, truth or fiction. Prose or poetry.

One final thing: If you want to get notices of these posts, you’ll have to subscribe to Serendipity. I’ll try to title relevant posts so you can easily recognize them.

My effort for this week follows.


 STILL PLASTIC AFTER ALL THESE YEARS

My mother gave me Toni for my birthday the year I turned six. She was not my first doll. Annabelle, a lovely, blond girl from Madame Alexander, had that distinction.

Annabelle was (is) a class act, but Tony has better hair. In fact, Toni was and remains, all about the hair.

Toni - From 1953, still beautiful and young after all these years. One of my favorite plastic friends.

She came with a little box containing doll-size curlers and a “permanent wave kit.” These were the years of the “home perm.” Toni perms were the most popular home perm kids, and were quite the “in” fashion statement, the quintessence of early 1950s chic.

The success of a home permanent wave depended on the skill of the administrator (aka “mom”) and luck. Little girls typically subjected to this procedure were those with absolutely straight hair. Ten years later, their ramrod straight hair would be “The Look of the Hippy Generation.” Girls would iron their hair in an attempt to gain what their mothers tried to erase.

In the 1950s, Shirley Temple was the way a proper girl should look. To this standard mommies everywhere aspired on behalf of their daughters.

Shirley Temple Doll portrait

The curlers were teeny tiny and the “permanent wave” was sugar-water. It didn’t so much curl Toni’s hair, as make it sticky and attractive to flies and ants.

From my doll collecting days, I have perhaps 20 versions of Toni, from the compact, economy 14″ size, to the super-size luxury 24″ model. I have her with red, blond, auburn, brown, and dark brown hair. She is still plastic after all these years … and is still all about her hair.