I have started bringing in the stove wood for the coming winter, ranking it around the garage walls where I can get to it handily when the snowdrifts come. It is early for thinking winter but I know from experience that if I don’t start in October when time and weather permit, I won’t get finished before the snow flies. As I unload the truck, I amuse myself by singing the old hymn, “Bringing In The Sheaves,” substituting “wood” for “sheaves.” “Bringing in the wood/ bringing in the wood/ we shall come rejoicing/ bringing in the wood.” There is some joy in both jobs since both achieve security from the winter cold. (Carol, as a child, thought the words of that hymn were “bringing in the sheeps.” “Sheeps” she understood; sheaves was not a word heard on American farms in our day.)
But while there is comfort in knowing that even if the electricity goes off, or especially if the electricity goes off, the ricked wood in the garage will keep us warm and snug, a troubling thought always haunts my brain as I “come rejoicing.” We humans are the only animals here in the wintery north that need artificial heat to survive. Do we really belong here? It is hard to deny that we are presently burning up the earth to stay warm. Perhaps the ultimate force of destruction that will strike down the earth is the intelligence that enables us to use fire to stay alive in winter.
What if we are supposed to stay in warmer climes? Maybe global warming will be the way we will survive. If the whole earth never got below freezing, we would not have to burn it up to stay alive.
The coming of winter fills us all with uneasy foreboding, although we don’t always realize it. In the news recently were new statistics that indicate stock market plunges occur more frequently in October than any other month, followed closely by September and November. The economists don’t know why. I like to think I do. This is the season of uneasiness. Our inner instincts know we are entering the cold season that we are not naturally acclimated to. We are foreigners in a foreign land. We are intruders. We can only survive here by burning up the earth. If you are in the stock market, it is time to sell.
In this season, all human cultures dwell on remembering the dead. Halloween. Ghosts and spooks and goblins and skeletons and daylight getting shorter. Graveyards and cemeteries. Batten down the hatches. Hold on.
And then comes the winter solstice. Aha. The shortest day comes and goes. Warmth will return. It is written in the stars. Merry Christmas. Buy.
I see in the news that some scientists think the smoky stoves that millions of families in various parts of Asia use for cooking just might be the reason the glaciers in the Himalayas are melting faster. The smoke blackens the surface of the ice so it draws the sun’s heat more. (Notice that this report comes to us now, at the beginning of the season of bleak outlooks.) But maybe it’s true. Here again, another troubling thought is hard to ignore. Humans are also the only animals that heat their food. Are we all horsemen of the Apocalypse?