One raw day early last spring, my grown son – who's juggling college classes, part-time work, and the eye-popping adventure of first-time fatherhood – stopped in at the farmhouse for a quick visit between errands.
Tim was stressed out, had arrived without a coat despite the chilly wind, and would be able to stay only a few minutes before heading to his own home. But he experienced a transformation over that brief visit – becoming a relaxed, almost mellow young man.
It might have had something to do with a mother's supportive vibes, but I must give the bulk of the credit where it's due – the radiating warmth of the wood stove.
Tim's first utterance upon entering the house and feeling its familiar, penetrative embrace was not a greeting, but a simple, extended "aaahhh." He made a beeline for the humble barrel-shaped object. He sighed another "aaahhh" as he hovered over it, arms raised and fluttering slightly, before he managed, "Hi, Mom."
As anyone who heats with wood knows, there is nothing like it for warming a body through and through. On a winter's evening, Charlie and I (and our three dogs) vie for the love-seat cushion closest to our barrel stove, which keeps most of the house borderline comfortable and those within its immediate aura in nirvana.
Of course, a wood stove takes work – cutting and hauling deadfalls from around the farm, and then chopping and splitting them. If it weren't worth it, we would rely more on our propane gas heater. It fires up with the turn of a switch.
Today, after a week of relative warmth, it turned chilly. I walked the farm to stoke my own furnace and wore a sweater inside the house, resisting the impulse to start the stove just yet. Then, about 4 p.m., a cold drizzle dropped from the overcast sky. I looked at the dogs, curled up tightly on the sofa. Their eyebrows raised in expectation. I headed to the woodshed for an armful of comfort.
The warmth at the moment is decadent. Our black Lab on the cushion nearest its source is upright, Buddha-like, soaking it in – and about to be relocated.