Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Learning All Over Again

Living the life of a pampered wife all those years meant that there were things now that I had to tend to and learn how to do again.

Fall brings images of earthy leaves, that crunch underfoot crisp apples picked off the tree and wood piles neat and tidy.  This past fall, all those these were void for me, instead I was spending precious days with my husband in the hospital as bad news trickled in like the drips from a leaky faucet; drop by drop so as not to flood our hearts and minds for what was unthinkable. On October 30th, our children began adjusting to our new lives without their father and me without the physical presence of my husband of more than 36 years.

With brute force, I pulled the lever at the top of the box and opened the damper.  I took a sheet of newspaper and crunched it into a ball as I had seen my husband do over and over, but didn't really pay it much attention.  I've built fires in the pouring rain. 'A cinch. Then came a few dry twigs.  When I placed the heavy logs onto of all this the structure collapsed.  This is how Jerry did it.  It's OK.  My husband a bit unconventional (he did things his way) I knew that flame needs air, I wondered if this would work. Still I scratched the match to the box and then held it under the edge of the newspaper. It took.  Stepping back, I sighed and watched the light spread.  Once it caught, I closed the damper, latched the door and stepped away. Soon afterward I grabbed my red sweater from the hook and pulled it on.  I think it was colder inside than outside.

Something had gone desperately wrong. Opening the wood stove, the barely charred wood was cold. With each passing day, it didn't get much better.  There were many times I went to school (I am certain) with an air of smokey perfume wafting through the halls. There was plenty of smoke to start, but little heat. It had to get better.  With frigid winter temperatures ahead, there was no choice, but to persist.  Instinctually, I began noting elements of fire building that worked and those that did not feed the flame.  I adjusted.

Here's what I learned:

  • Don't use wet wood.  If it sizzles inside the stove, you know you have made a bad move.
  • Use plenty of kindling. Choose wisely.
  • Keep the damper open for a bit of time. (I still get a little nervous with this one and remember the fire trucks showing up, but that is for another story.) Be patient.
  • Always invoke your husband's help. Ask for help when you need it.
  • Remember to keep calm, persist and believe it will happen. Miracles happen.
Last night, I stood by the wood stove my palms feeling the heat.  The red glow of warmth flickered through the smokey window.  I remembered the early days of widowhood just months ago, stepped back, sighed and smiled.  Now, it's mid-March and I have survived most of my first Maine winter, alone.  My husband is rooting for me.  I just know it.  Like the weak smokey flame that grew over time, I too have evolved. 


Julie said...

I have been so enjoying your posts recently. You have been upping the frequency and each story is so wonderfully evocative. You are allowing us into your adjustment to the new reality. Your generosity in sharing is so much appreciated! Julie

travelinma said...

Julie, Thanks so very much for reading and commenting. It is so great to have feedback. The challenge of a writer is to write and realize that the reader is often silent. Each comment helps me to persist. This new normal is certainly a time of adjustment and self-discovery. I'll keep writing, if you continue to read. In Gratitude-Barbara

Claudette Guay said...

Never stop writing, I may not leave a comment all the time, but love to read how you are adjusting. πŸŒΊπŸ™‚ hugs.

travelinma said...

Mrs. Guay, You don't know how much I appreciate that you take time out of your day to read my blog. I am so grateful. Thank you for reading and thank you for leaving a comment now and again.

Louise Guerin said...

Barbara, while still incredibly sad for yours and your family's loss, I'm heartened by your successes. May they continue.

travelinma said...

Louise, Your sweet thoughts from you and others on behalf of my family and Jerry help us. Collectively, it gives us strength to face this "new normal" that we never bargained for nor asked for.

travelinma said...

Thank you all for your kind thoughts and taking the time to check into my blog now and again. When I can write and post, it feels so so very good. Please please keep reading. Sometimes I need nudging to write. Feel free. Nudge away.

Lisa Ireland said...

Beautifully articulated!
Jerry taught me how to use our wood stove.
Whenever I tackle the little beast, I always hear his voice in my head "now deah, think of the bottom lever as a gas peddle. Push 'er allllll the way in to get 'er goin' nice and hot for ya" :-)

travelinma said...

Lisa, I am honored that you read and commented. Thanks so much. Sending you all love.

sunshyntangerine said...

Wow, wow, wow! I love how this all came full circle at the end! I slammed my coffee cup down in excitement to write my comment. I also thoroughly enjoyed the list you included.