Folks who don't heat with firewood can't really appreciate all that goes into that bit of sunshine in your winter wood stove, they might think maybe it's easy just because it's free (at least mostly free, the way I do it), but there are other burdens that come with the erratic supply of gleaned firewood such as I use. There's really no need to mention here the sectioning and hauling and splitting and hauling and stacking and hauling and burning and hauling and hauling and hauling, but I already did so it's too late.
Take 2: Say you've got four or five cords of firewood crowding out there in various locations around your house, wood from various periods of time in the past couple years, some of it stoveready, some not, but you've run out of stacking space and have just been given access to a whole new multicord bunch of bigwood to be split and stacked so it will dry by the time you need it two or three winters from now, so you've got to put it somewhere but you can't stack new green wood on top of fully or nearly ready wood, so you've got to walk around, analyze your stacks, ponder the weather and your wood supply, juggling disparate concepts sort of like Einstein used to do with various other aspects of the universe while wandering his theoretical woodlot.
With these sylvan symbols as well, like Albert you've got to somehow bend time and space by combining a couple of nearly ready pieces of embodied light, i.e., photons+alpha = wood, into one taller stack, thereby clearing a place for the new incoming atomic structures. Then when winter comes, in the heart of your stove you unleash the energy of those atoms in the welcome form of heat while freeing up some space outside, thereby establishing a direct link between time, space and firewood, but right now you have to match the mix of new and old.
Fortunately, last year you began to denote all this data in numerical symbols on the end face of one piece of wood at the top of each stack, but unfortunately as the universe would have it the newest wood always seeks the top of the stack, so to get at the older wood you have to go to the bottom, by for example turning the whole stack over, which is cosmically impractical (Albert, working in complete abstraction, had it easier in this regard), and practicality is what we're talking about here, so this approach needs work. Al's work led to atomic fissioning and nuclear power, which here in Japan has a bigly negative historic reputation but is still used in winter to power electric heaters, blu-rays, plasma tvs and game consoles, among other things.
Whatever time you live in, it seems that there are always some folks looking forward to the end of the world, folks who might have done better with the world they were given than to wind up with a headful of Armageddon. Those are the kind of folks who for example promote and look forward to December 21, 2012, a year from today, when the Mayan calendar will end (only because there are no Mayans around to extend it). According to the eager Armageddans, that will also mark end the world. Then they can live out their dream of laughing a righteous 'I told you so!' as they too vaporize.
In contrast, the mellow folks whose lives are considerately guided by that diminishing commodity known as common sense keep trying to explain to the worldflamers that 2012 as a date in this context is no more portentous than May 21, 2011 was. Fact is that of course the Mayans didn't know any more than anyone else when the world is going to end.
When they founded their kingdom and were working out their way-admirable calendar, they said at the imperial calendar council 'What's a good time to start an undending dynasty? What do we need here? When shall we have begun?' After mulling over all the recollections of what some great-great grandfathers were said to have said, they reached that earliest edge of their history, settled on an arbitrary time point further back in the local-time fog (sidenote: place/time points with no physical record are historically/religiously favored for dynastic startups). So the guy in the third seat to the left of the chairman said '730 years ago or so would be good, that fits nicely, better than 200 years ago for sure,' so that's what they did. And that's why the world will end in a year precisely.
If you were to pluck the fulness of your being from the fastforward lightspeed staccato rush of the modern megamedia mindflash, your body from the hypermomentum tomorrownow timeplasma of urbaniamania, and in a fully mindbodied experience softly send yourself meandering down a narrow village road anywhere in rural Japan, sooner or later you'd likely come upon a sugidama (sugi: cedar; dama: ball) hanging outside the door of a local sake brewery. In your strange new state of mind you'd pretty likely whisper wtf?
Unlike the Vegas Strip, say, or one of those tv uzi-ads that repeat the product name at a pace set to induce monetary seizures, when sake is first set to brewing, in accordance with the traditional manner a ball made of freshly cut green cedar branches is hung outside the brewery door as a sign to the community that the new batch is now brewing. In the real world, which is local, this is important news. As the sake brews in its natural way as time passes in its natural way, the cedar ball ages in its natural way. As the ball dries out and turns more and more brown, the closer the sake is to completion, until at last the fully brown ball tells all the village and all who pass along the road that the sake brewed and sold here is now ready and available. Slow advertising.
Imagine that: months of fragrantly tantalizing tenterhook advertising, all without using even one microvolt of electricity. So natural. So elegant. So knowing - and knowing of so many things - a tacit knowing, in which all share. Without neon or billboard. Who now knows how long it takes for cedar branches to turn brown, and that that duration matches the time it takes for sake to become sake? Some elderly folks still know these things, in the small, emptying country towns...
THE WIND AND I: PERSONAL DEVELOPMENT THROUGH FIREWOOD
Hah. Figured I'd finally beaten the wind on this baby. The wind and I have always had a relationship problem, especially the autumn wind, the worst of the Aeolian clan vis-a-vis keeping the damn tarps on the damn ready-to-burn firewood dammit, those gusts and I not seeing eye-to-eye on this human continuity thing.
Don't get me wrong; I understand the needs of the wind, how it has to fulfill its basic mandate of leveling everything as fully and quickly as possible, there are mountains to be flattened and oceans to be shoved around, an endless list of worldwide tasks that must be done, yaggeda yaggeda, but counterposed against this are buildings and other pro tem human artifacts with precious values of their own, such as my humble stack of tarped firewood that must be protected from the elemental assignments to wet everything down, blow it away, reduce it to fungus fodder or whatever-- so I and the wind, among other of my natural relations, are always in each other's faces.
It was therefore with a smirk of satisfaction, I must say - after recovering the wind-tossed tarp from the bamboo forest behind my fresh new facecord of first-class firewood for what I guess must be the xumpteenth time in the last few years - that I came up with the idea of tying some strong traditional cord to the grommets of one tarp corner, threading it through the stack of firewood itself, then tying it taut to the grommets on the opposite corner. Hah. Bite on that, windhead.
That should do it, I thought in that hubris for which humans are famed (which also sets us apart from the animals, though unlike sinning, speaking, toolmaking, blushing etc., it is seldom mentioned in that connection). That night, the wind knowing full well what was afoot, firewood tarpwise, did its damndest to rip that tarp off there. And when I went out in the morning to gloat, that activity was out of the question. The wind had blown strongly enough to cause the tarp and its loopy rope to actually lift and topple that portion of the woodpile! Crafty! Plus more muttery labor for yours truly. Our battle had reached new heights. So then I countered with a newer and even craftier approach, on which I may be reporting any day now.
But my real reason for writing all this was the treat I was afforded while all this redoing was going on, because you know how beautiful mountainsides and all their trees can be when they set their minds to it in the peak of autumn color? Well there was that, and on top of that there was a big, thick, glorious arc of light's components rainbowing from the top of the mountain down to the lake, and through that bow of many colors the leaves of all the trees were enhanced beyond the reach of speech...
I had to stop every once in a while (beauty will do that, thank heaven), amidst my irritation and hubristically driven efforts, to admit to myself that the beauty all around was so much more important than my meager doings, so much more nourishing and truthful than anything an angry or prideful person could ever come up with in a million years if we ever get that far, the way we're going, tarpwise.
So as a result of this experience I've grown a bit more in emotional terms, learned a few things about deeper personal issues, and am on a friendlier basis with the wind now for sure; it's a good wind, but no way it can get that damn tarp off this damn time dammit.
I started growing - or rather attempting to grow - hiratake mushrooms sort of as a lark, a few years ago, as detailed here. I'd found the spore on sale, had a few oak sections available, thought I'd give it a try but didn't expect much, given my experience with other sorts of exotic mushroom varieties; plus, being in sync with dozens of shiitake logs all over the place for all these years, these mushrooms would provide but a drop in the bucket, if indeed anything at all made it into the bucket.
So far I've learned that hiratake fruit just after the shiitake have finished, at least up here in this ecolocale, and even though I got some sterling hiratake last year, the oak sections soon looked like they'd been coopted by shelf fungi, so I had by degrees begun giving up on the hiratake agenda. Thus it was that I 'forgot' to check the logs under their cover of leaves, twigs and burlap.
Then a few days ago I entered the jungle of my garden and headed along the ancient path toward where legend had it that some old logs had been sequestered under forest debris, plus some older cover; upon exposing the logs, I found that one log had done nothing, as expected, but that the other had sprouted half-heartedly about a week before, so such mushrooms as there were were no longer prime, but even subprime hiratake are a gourmet experience, so we enjoyed them. But I figured that this year was the last gasp of an amateur effort. I had learned some stuff, and might try again with some other varieties, maybe get some a couple years down the road.
So I forgot once more about checking any further until a couple of days ago when I chanced upon familiar signs of an ancient mushroom tomb and decided, albeit pointlessly, to look once more, see if the other log had done anything. I pulled back the cover from the unproductive sections and saw there amidst the crumbly dun of the forest debris the most beautiful fronds of graduated pearl-gray mushrooms cascading down in lifeglowing perfection that I have ever seen.
No treasure hunter has ever felt more awe. Well, Indiana Jones might have come close for the first milliseconds of beholding that golden idol he had expected to find, but the gorgeousness of this natural radiance, shining there amidst the the dull matte of leaves, twigs, burlap and duff where nothing at all had been expected, I think puts me a few paces ahead of that intrepid movie character, plus there was no curse on my discovery. And as to the deliciousness, I got the better deal. Indiana can have the publicity.
Born and raised in upstate New York, traveled for a decade after college, lived in various places around the world, keeping a journal. Settled in Kyoto in 1980, moved to this mountainside above Lake Biwa in 1995. Started Pure Land Mountain in April 2002.
Written contents 2002~2013 copyright Robert Brady