I turned and hung up my drenched jacket on the coat rack. This coat rack had been a prize that Jack had found at a consignment auction a few years back. It was a brass beauty. It was the same size as any old coat rack, but the shape of it was a tree, and the hooks were its branches. The sculpting of it was amazing. The bark on the trunk looked absolutely real, with its rough looking textures and the gorgeous shading. It was also practical too, which was what allowed it to come home with us that day. Jack was the one with the eye for beauty, but it had to pass my practicality test to be brought onto the farm. There were too many beautiful things that simply had no place out here. If it couldn't be cleaned or didn't have a true purpose, it would need to find a different home. The fact was, Jack had had wonderful taste, and the house was a shrine to him.
I tried to shake off his memory. I knew it was of no use, but I had work to do to make this house seem homey rather than a tomb. Most days I felt as dead inside as he really was.
Okay, first thing to do is take off these pretty clothes and put on some work clothes. There was some serious work to do! Up the stairs I went to my bedroom. I noticed the chill in the air and stopped to feel the wood stove for warmth: barely warm. I'd have to get it going again, rather than just throwing another log on the fire. Oh! Did I have to say things in such a way as to keep remembering him? That stupid song he sometimes sang came back to mind:
Put another log on the fire.
Cook me up some bacon and some beans.
And go out to the car and change the tire.
Wash my socks and sew my old blue jeans.
Come on, baby, you can fill my pipe,
And then go fetch my slippers.
And boil me up another pot of tea.
Then put another log on the fire, babe,
And come and tell me why you're leaving me.
A smile crossed my lips, and then a pang hit my heart. Tears started forming. I shook my head. Not now, there simply isn't time to mourn right now.
I looked up and out the window to see what I was up against. Looking toward the shop I saw black clouds gathering quickly. I needed to head out and get some wood before the downpour started.
I pick up the pair of jeans I'd dropped on the floor the night before and tossed them on the bed. The bed. Another auction find. This one from an estate auction over in Redmond. The owner had been a widow for 50 years before she sold the old homestead and moved in with her son. For fifty years she lived the way I was trying to now. How did she manage? How did she pull herself up by her bootstraps and move on? I couldn't understand it, but it was something I was going to have to learn.
I took off my good clothes and carefully hung them up to dry. Jeans and a tee shirt with a flannel shirt over it was a good choice for today. Looking around the room I knew that after the wood was gathered the house would have to be tidied. I'd let it go for the past month since the funeral, and it desperately needed some TLC.
Leaving the room I mechanically flipped the light switch off. It was a habit I'd been trying to form: turning off the lights as I left the room... but the dimness stayed just the way it had been. I'd forgotten about the power.
At the back door I stopped and grabbed my rain coat and hoodie. Both would be necessary today. My final snatch off the shelf was a pair of leather work gloves. Then I left the house.
Around the house to the wood shed I went. I opened the doors wide, and saw only four - six to eight inch in diameter cedar logs. No hardwood was available except for straggling bark and broken up cast offs that were only good for tinder. In the corner lay old Ben, the black lab looking pup. He looked up from his slumber only with his eyes and graciously wagged his tail sleepily. It was hard to believe that he came from Jewel's line. Old Lassie, his momma had met Max, the dog on the next farm a few years ago. Judging from the pups she kept having, out of all of the dogs in this area, she liked Max best. I reached up and grabbed the bow saw. I wasn't yet comfortable enough to use the chain saw. I'd have to practice with it this weekend so that I could fill up the shed, but I didn't want to learn today with the wet and mess out there. I closed the doors, remembering not to latch them so that old Ben could get out after his nap.
Across the lawn I walked with purpose. I wanted to get this done and over. Sitting in front of a wood fire might be a romantic thing to do, but all the rest of the work that went along with it was just mucky and messy. As soon as I had the thought I knew that I needed to change my way of thinking. Old timers always said that heating with wood warms you twice: once when chopping and gathering the wood, and then once when you heated with it. I knew the logic, I just wasn't quite there for the optimism of it yet.
Jewel looked at me from the porch. Today she would wait until I called her. While she was a wonderful friend and would come out into the rain with me if I asked, she wasn't going to offer. I hesitated. I didn't want to make her get wet and miserable, but I also didn't want to go into the woods by myself. Even at thirty years old, the dark and the strange, unfamiliar noises of the woods still bothered me. "Come on girl!" I called and patted my leg. Down the sidewalk she trotted, showing her unfailing loyalty. I waited for her and then reached down and gave her a rub, "Good girl," I cooed. This was my baby and also my best friend. I might feed her and brush her, but she was the one who really took care of me by giving me her love and support; I wouldn't know what to do without her.
I turned and crossed the bridge that connected the driveway with the sidewalk. The usually calm, bubbly brook was slowly rising. I wasn't worried too much though, because this creek rarely spilled over. It was just a much smaller branch of the one I had had to cross earlier that morning.
I turned and followed the dirt road toward the rest of the property. This was a portion we rarely used for anything other than a view. It was a gorgeous area: woods up and to the right and then more straight ahead. I stopped at the fork in the road deciding which to use. Looking at both I decided to go to the woods further down the road. I had been gathering from the nearer one a lot this past month, and the easy to get to branches on the deadfall trees were nearly gone. About all that was left up there were the trunks of a few twenty to fifty foot dead trees lying on the ground. I'd have to take a chainsaw to the rest of it and load it in the back of the truck. That would have to be done later, though, after I got up my courage and after the ground dried up so I wouldn't get mired down in the mud.
I turned and patted my leg; Jewel followed. We walked in the open field in silence. All of the birds were tucked away in their nests trying to stay dry. No animals were out today, and the day was as silent out here as it had been in the house. A little shiver ran down my back. My imagination was much to wild for my own good. I tried to keep my thoughts turned away from the fact that everything sounded as dead as a tomb. I tried not to think about death. And tombs. And Pharaohs that have themselves, their earthly treasures, some of their animals and sometimes even a favorite servant killed and mummified and encased in his tomb for use in his afterlife. Would he have his wife killed and mummified too, I wondered, so he wouldn't have to be alone in the afterlife? Inside of that tomb, would it feel very much like this does, except more enclosed? Even though I forbade myself to think such thoughts, they volunteered themselves readily. Again I shivered as I started my trudge up the hill. continue to part 4