the firewood gate
I went out to try to photograph the morning sky, pink suffusing the eastern and southern treelines, and everything so rich and autumnal. But the colour wouldn’t show up. But while I was outside, I could smell newly-split fir. (John spent the last few days splitting and stacking two cords of wood.)
Our woodshed was built with bits and pieces of cedar posts and beams more than 30 years ago. When you live where we live, you burn a lot of firewood and the woodshed was an essential structure. There’s a magnificent wisteria climbing up the right post, the one you don’t see, its trunk as thick as a good-sized tree.
The last week has been strangely stressful. A medical adventure for me, world events filling the airwaves — or at the radio airwaves; the ones outside are loud with wind and birds — and (maybe as a result of the medical issue) Time’s Winged Chariot whirring dangerously near. But the firewood is somehow comforting — its sweet smell, the quick winter wren that is busy investigating its new geometries for insects. So settle in, I tell myself, and remember where you are, who you are. Long conversations with my children have been a solace. News of Halloween: granddaughter dressed up as a garbage-truck driver (her current heroes, the guys who wave to her from the alley as they pick up the weekly garbage and recycling), clutching her plastic garbage truck as proof of her dedication; one grandson a pirate; the other (the youngest) a monster.
I think of Du Fu, that poet-sage of the Tang dynasty, who wrote of political corruption and the passing of time, and whose home had a firewood gate; he was nothing if not grounded in the particulars of home and hearth, all the while lamenting the injustices of the larger world. Time to do as he did, meditate on Autumn and its touchstones: the smoke and cold water, the song of a tiny bird among the logs, and the sound of the mountain.
I’ve heard them say that Chang’an seems like in a game of chess,
A hundred years of world events have caused unbearable pain.
The palaces of the noblemen all have their new masters,
Civil and military dress and caps are not like those before.
Straight north over mountain passes, gongs and drums ring out,
Conquering the west, carts and horses, feather-hurried dispatches.
The fish and dragons are still and silent, the autumn river cold,
A peaceful life in my homeland always in my thoughts.
(Autumn Meditation 4)