Prior to a game of Settlers of Catan with our boy I went out to the trunk of the car to get some wood for the fireplace.
While I cut and split about 70% of our wood, I supplement the rest of it buying wood from other sources, mostly from a fellow on Henry Street who sells wood for 6 pieces for a dollar. But they're huge pieces. Gigantic.
During the summer he sells smaller pieces of pine. Horrible wood for heating the home using a fireplace insert. He sells pine in the summer, the season when campers and tourists are in town enjoying the lakes and beaches, and camp in Hoffmaster and roast marshmallows over the fire pit and create a wonderful scent and hazy atmosphere when driving by the campground on the way home, while campers light the darkness, cook hot dogs, and make smores with their families.
But as the campers go, and the weather turns cold the wood man changes his offerings from pine to hardwood. Massive chunks. Pine isn't good for heating the home with unless you have an outdoor wood furnace. Mostly pine is for the campers. It's gooey. Resinous. Clogs the chimney and makes chimney fires more likely. Hardwoods are best. And the wood guy offers hardwoods in the winter. He sells huge pieces. Each piece I split up into three or four normal pieces. Oak, maple...sometimes walnut or sassafras. But mostly hardwood. As though the wood man knows that winter folks are heating their homes, as though he holds off with the hardwood until the tourist season is over and sells the large chunks of hardwood to the locals.
I stocked up, shoved as much as I could into the car and drove it home.
As I went out into the darkness this evening to take wood from the car and bring it to the house for heating, I heard a voice. My elderly neighbor. A widow.
"Hi!" said the voice from the darkness.
Surprised, "Oh! Geeze...you scared me! Hi!"
"Oh I'm sorry, dear. I'm just looking up at the sky. I'm wondering if that's a planet up there between the trees. It's so bright!"
I looked "I................maybe?" I went over into my neighbor's yard to see what she was seeing "Wow...that might be a.....plane? No...it's not moving........maybe.....Venus?"
"I don't KNOW, but it was so beautiful. I saw it from the window...I have half a mind to go down to the Lake and see it better."
We talked of Aurora Borealis and constellations.
"When my husband was alive I was outside and I saw such beautiful greens and yellows maybe....maybe five years ago?" she told me "I told my husband and at first he told me it was too late to go out but he came out and we were both so amazed. He and I, we went down to the Big Lake that very moment, even though it was so late and we watched the colors in the sky...."
I didn't speak.
We just looked at the brilliant heavenly body off on the Western horizon together in the January darkness.