Monday, October 22, 2007


ALL THE THINGS THAT AREN'T PINECONES...


Woodstoves and fireplaces can mean a lot of work if you clean your own chimney and chop your own wood, but the reward is more than the bliss of having a warm fire in your living room; it also inspires you to go out to splendid places you might not otherwise go to at odd times, and do there things you might not otherwise do.

Like yesterday morning, when Echo and I went to Omimaiko, the small but elegant peninsula with the long pine beach, slightly north of us on the lake (we can see the tip of it from our deck) where we walk, swim, picnic and watch fireworks at other times of the year, but this time it was to gather pinecones (excellent firestarters, and free). We'd gone to a different place further north the day before (nice beachside restaurant up there), but the trees in that vicinity are of a selfish variety and keep their cones to themselves. Even the wind didn't shake any down.

The big old pines on Omimaiko though, are much more generous, and their largish, well-dried pinecones were already scattered everywhere on the sand awaiting us, with no one else seeking the treasure just lying there like a spilled cornucopia. More and more folks here in Japan nowadays use atomic electricity to heat their homes, and are not inspired thereby in any noticeable way.

Anyhow, it's interesting being thus nicely coerced into gathering pinecones in the piney shade along a bright beach on a sunny, breezy morning, getting to know the trees and their territory first-hand, bending to pick up treasures here and there (getting to know the properties of your own back, as well) and acquiring a decent eye for a good pinecone (it's an art), learning to filter out everything that isn't a pinecone, which effort in its humble way is excellent practice for modern life and the attendant growth in multiplicity of things that aren't pinecones.

Like all the best undertakings, pinecone gathering also has the pleasant savor of eccentricity about it, as pertains to going around under trees while bent over holding big bags and putting pinecones in them. Passersby wonder at the sight; new conversations begin. Aesthetically attractive as pinecones are, they're generally not much use to anyone except kids, who love to gather them, throw them, stack them up in situ and take a bunch of the best ones home to find years later in the closet. So there's a being-a-kid aspect to it, too, which is always welcome to the kid that cores the elder.

In any case pinecones are not so attractive or useful as to have people walking around gathering them by the bagful as we were, the two of us alone, on that long beach; we soon had two big bags full to overflowing and then began to fill our pockets until all we had was our hands and they were full too, because as with any other bargain in life, once you get going on a superior freebie like pinecone firestarters to use on the coming cold winter mornings - when you bend to a cold stove in the early darkness and light a small cluster of pinecones beneath some cherry kindling and the flame catches, the fragrance rises, the fire grows to give you warmth and light - all vested there in the pine-tree largesse of amber cones scattered at your feet like so many treasures of the future, the little gifts take on a magical appearance and it becomes difficult to walk by a prime golden specimen just lying there looking at you with its arms spread wide and not pick it up, to walk right by a gift of the pine gods...

By the time we were retracing our steps back to the car, though, the wind had gotten a lot stiffer with the growing warmth, the pines were shaking and roiling their furry arms, having a grand green time and being even more generous, practically emptying their pockets in their delight at the day: the large underpine area we had already cleared was once again a gold mine of new-fallen pinecones that we had to walk through with pinecones already coming out of our ears. Interesting anguish, not being able to pick up another perfect pinecone!

But we have more empty bags at home...



4 comments:

Todd said...

Brings back some great memories of the area.

Thanks!

Pat said...

I read your blog regularly but this is my first comment. Here in Turkey we also collect pine cones as fire starters so this post was very resonant for us Brits living in south west Turkey.

Pat Temiz

Mary Lou said...

In the Pac NorthWest we have loads of opportunities to gather pinecones. I always have a big basket full sitting beside the wood stove.

Bob Brady said...

It's nice that they're so beautiful to look at too...