Wednesday, February 22, 2006


As I've indicated a number of times in these lowly chronicles, I'm not a big fan of camphor as firewood. (I'm sure this is very valuable information for all you woodheaters abroad.) I got hold of an entire camphorwood log last summer and spent many stubborn sweaty hours trying to split a couple of bucked sections by hand and gave up on the rest of it; camphor wood is way more stubborn than I am. So now I use the remaining sections for various other purposes in the garden. The wood is light but never decays; even bacteria seem to dislike it. Which I suppose is why it's a primary ingredient in Tiger Balm, and that old standby of my childhood, Vicks' Vaporub.

I did however get some split chunks of the wood in a half cord I recently bought from my local wood dealer to tide us over for these few remaining weeks of cold weather, since all the wood I split last summer won't be ready till the coming winter.

So this cold foggy morning, after I got the stove going good I went to the woodpile and got a big chunk of camphor wood that the dealer had split with a power splitter; I could tell by the broadly ragged edges and the splintered nature of the chunk that even with a power splitter the camphor had put up a hell of a fight, light as the wood is. Indeed, it looked as though it was still reaching out for the rest of itself, even now trying to hold all together. I arranged it in the stove with some other "hotter" wood (camphor burns rather fast and not very hot, like pine wood) and had breakfast.

Later I went out into the still-hanging mist to get some greens from the garden and noticed a very pleasant scent on the pearlescent air, though nothing was blooming yet; I even checked the jinchoge (myrtle), which is due to blossom pretty soon. The scent was vaguely familiar though, sort of like... camphor, but not, exactly... Then it became apparent that I was smelling the chimney smoke that was being held to the earth by the mist; it was the camphor wood burning, its diluted scent now perfuming the mist like a rare incense, turning all the air into a temple.

Camphor wood does have its worshipful aspects.


Tabor said...

And did it clear your sinuses as well?

Robert Brady said...

Now that you mention it...