Stacking wood

Robert Frost’s evocative poem, The Wood-Pile, mourns a beautiful ‘cord’ of maple: cut, carefully stacked in the forest, and then mysteriously abandoned. It is leaning precariously, sinking, long past its best and ‘far from a useful fireplace’.

Discovered by the poet, on a wintry walk, Frost considers the apparent quitclaim of such an impressive wood-pile. Surely, this must be the action of someone who flits from one thing  to another, abandoning and forgetting past achievements – to leave so carelessly such a useful stockpile? 

To the contrary, my own thinking settles on a more likely interpretation. Surely  the person is dead. For what woodcutter would relinquish such a carefully assembled horde, other than through death?

I’ve long been a devotee of well constructed woodpiles, spotting them on walks, train journeys, from the passenger seat of the car, or occasionally in a film or something on television. As Lars Mitting showed in his book Norwegian Wood, his countrymen have huge expertise in this department, you might say elevating it to an art form.

My own efforts are more humble. No attempts at a wood-pile in the form of a leaping salmon, a perfect sphere, or a collection of small houses. My main goal is simply to get the firewood under cover, drying out  and ready for a subsequent cold snap. But even that, I know, should be done with respect and diligence. I feel this increasingly as I grow older. Knowing from whence the wood comes, how long it has been cut, and the provenance of the trees becomes important. So too is attention to the stacking.

Which is why this week I was curious to receive a delivery of firewood (for next winter) where as part of the service, the logs would be stacked for me. I watched in admiration as barrow load after barrow load was tipped in front of a young man who then stowed them to perfection. Like a dry stone dyker, he selected each piece of wood with care and then placed it with confidence in such a way that the log sat snug and neat with its neighbours, eased into an almost pre-ordained position.  In every case he was right first time. His spatial economy created an end-grain jigsaw of satisfying complexity, with never a need for a second try.

Why should such things matter, I ask myself? I am not by temperament a perfectionist or an obsessive compulsive. But the perfect order in a wood shed full of beech, sycamore, birch and ash brings an inner pleasure. It is not for abandoning. 

In fact this woodstack pays a double dividend. It will warm my home when next winter comes, and it warms my spirit now, as I pass it each morning on my way to the Dumfriesshire garden.

First published in Garden Musings 18 February 2021

Published by David Graham Clark

I am a sociologist and writer. Pieces on this site include reflective writings, stories, and memoir on aspects of daily life, along with associated images and videos. In these various ways I try to illuminate what I call the quotidian world, particularly my own.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: