wood burning stoves
I spent New Year's eve tucked away in a little log cabin in the eastern bulge of West Virginia. It was cold and windy outside, but, with the help of our wood burning stove, warm and toasty, inside.
There are so many things to love about wood burning stoves. This one is cast-iron black, bobbed with bright brass knobs on its sundry doors and openings. Best of all, it has a tempered glass window that allows you to peer into the magic happenings in the otherwise hidden inside. Watching the white-hot logs, the fire soar, and the embers glow is mesmerizing. Better even than an aquarium. Best of all, perhaps, is when the flames dance on the air, unattached to the wood below. This happens when the temperature in the stove (really an oven) kicks up to 500 degrees and we close the flew. This turbo-boosting causes the heat in the oven to rise precipitously, from 500 to 700 degrees or so in the matter of one or two minutes. On a good run, we can get the temperature up to 1200 degrees. Which to us city slickers seems pretty good, but only 3/4 the way on the dial. Our stove, and thermometer, are built to go up to 1700 degrees, standard.
No doubt you wood burning stove aficionadoes are laughing at my novice experiences and limited success in getting the most out of this amazing machine. That's okay. I am sure I will learn. And I do welcome all advice and encouragement, and grand stories about your adventures with your stoves.
But what is most amazing of all, is how it grounds you in the relationship we have with this earth. I felt, literally, the immediacy between the trees in my forest, and the comfort of my home. I collected the wood that fell outside the cabin and brought it in for tinder and warmth. Throughout the cold New Year's, the only source of heat we had was this 30" x 18" or so metal box, and the wood it consumed.
Put in a log, shut the door, be enveloped by the gift of light and warmth and comfort. Two days and 20 some logs later (I am sure that as novices we were a bit profligate and wasteful in our use of the logs. I am eager to learn how to use less for the same amount of comfort and heat.), we emptied the ashbin. All the grandeur of that wood that once grew in the forest around me was reduced to a gallon of powdered vapors, so light it flew into the air as we poured it on the frozen ground.
And in the transformation from log to ash, we were warmed, and tended to, entertained, and delighted. We could see what we consumed, and what it cost, and how we benefited. And we could not help but be grateful, and humbled.
We need to consume the earth's resources if we are to live in this world. The question is: how much need we consume? How do we return it to the earth, for eventually everything we use is returned, for better or for worse. And how evident, even to us, is our appreciation of these gifts?
Everything we possess and hold and use is a gift from the earth, just like the warmth from that wood burning stove. The challenge for us is: how can we remember?