My dog convinced me that I should go ‘all in’ and cut wood from logs buried under the snow. Those logs were going to be my ‘Next Winter’ supply but it was time to use every option at my disposal. It was -16 in March and already I’d burned everything I’d intended for ‘This Winter’. If ‘This Winter’ had a car. I’d slash its tires.
Somewhere under all that snow was wood. None of it was visible. Also it was uncut, unsplit chunks. Floundering around out there with a chainsaw sounded like bad news on a cracker.
I tried to remember the precise arrangement of the jumble of buried chunks and logs. Normally this would be hopeless but my memory is unusual.
Most things normal people remember are gone from my head within minutes. I don’t remember my zip code. I rarely remember my birthday. When I remember my Anniversary it’s a victory. Names are the biggest black hole. If I met you and we shook hands and you introduced yourself I’ve already forgotten you. I’m sure you’re a fine person. You can tell me your name a second time but I’ll forget it again. If you do something memorable, like setting my pantleg on fire, I still won’t remember your name. I’ll just remember you as “the guy with matches”. This annoys some folks. I consider it simply the way the world works. The truth be told, the way the world works annoys some folks too.
On the other hand, I have an eerily accurate recall of geography. The location of Canadian fishing holes, notable greasy spoons in the Midwest, handy off road shortcuts in Utah, a scruffy restaurant that serves great steaks in Kansas, the back door to a neat tavern in Milwaukee, etc… If you want me to remember something, move it to an obscure location and leave it there. I’ll never forget.
I surveyed the drifted snow and tried to remember what it looked like last summer. I thought hard. As I slipped into revere the air shimmered.
“Isn’t this a clichéd approach to a flashback?” My dog asked.
“Complain again and I’ll adopt another cat.”
“What a brilliant method for presenting the idea of a flashback!” My dog enthused.
. . .
It was warm August evening. I had a jug of cold lemonade on the tractor’s seat. The woodsplitter and I had been tearing into wood like a tornado in a trailer park for hours. The sun slowly drifted toward the horizon…
“Beautiful flashback like that and I’m nowhere to be found?” The dog inquired.
“My dog was sniffing for squirrels amid some jackstrawed oak limbs…”
“That’s better.” The dog nodded.
I tried to remember more clearly. Yes, that’s it. I’d worked steadily all day. I rolled big cookies of wood from the Pony Trailer to the splitter. I tossed split pieces to the ATV trailer. Then I’d zip away to stack the wood. A brilliant system! Every move of weight was lateral rather than vertical. My limited machinery all fulfilling it’s best possible use. The pleasant efficiency of a job well done. I’d already stacked more than enough for winter. Now I was just racking up the score.
“Ha!” Barked the dog.
“Hey, I thought I had enough. It was a reasonable assumption.” I groused.
“Uh huh. Good luck with that Mr. Denial. Also everything worked perfectly? All day?” The dog knows when untruth is about. Dogs never lie. People lie even in their own memory.
The dog had a point. I dug deeper into my memory. A more realistic view came to mind. It was hotter than hell. The wood was heavy. My arms were sore and burning. The lemonade was actually just water and it was luke warm. I was in a hurry. I was running out of time…
. . .
I snapped back to the present. The scent of sawdust and grass was replaced by the clear relentless cold. Snow drifted over everything, including my memories.
“What?” The dog wanted to know.
“I didn’t get it all moved!” I stammered.
“So I…” I remembered it now! “I didn’t have anyone to drive the ATV. It was getting dark. I had to chose; split wood or stack it but I couldn’t do both.”
“So?” The dog asked again.
“The point is that I was in a hurry so I stacked the wood right there!”
“That sucks.” My dog commiserated.
“Not it doesn’t. It means I’ve got a stack of split dried wood just waiting for me!”
The dog lost interest and wandered away.
“I’m getting that shit right now!” I shouted to nobody in particular.
I grabbed a shovel and eyed the snowfield. Perhaps 30 feet away was a dimly remembered woodpile. Today’s version of buried treasure. I attacked a shoulder high iced up snow pile; detritus from several months of snowplowing. I carved a stairway; step after step up and over the heap. More steps down the other side. On the other side I gingerly inched off my stairs; and sunk to my waist in snow. Dammit!
I was cold, stuck in the snow, and on a fools errand. I was in a Jack London story. You know what ties together all those guys who died in Jack London’s books? None were holding a long handled round pointed shovel. Losers!
I went all samurai with the shovel and chopped out big cubes of packed snow. Steady progress. My dog couldn’t follow me over my ‘stairway’ and was barking like Timmy just fell down a well.
Dead reckoning from memory I chopped more blocks. Where the hell was that pile? I probed the snow with the shovel’s handle. Soon I found it. Eureka! I’d nailed the location! I’ll take that kind of memory over a skull full of Internet passwords and phone numbers any day!
Time for a Curmudgeonly Gem of Insight:
“Memory is for a purpose! If I meet you and immediately forget your name, it’s because I’m using that skull space for something more important. Possibly the location of firewood. Just accept it and we’ll both be happier.”
I levered over more snow blocks and uncovered the pile. The whole thing was an iced glob. Maybe this wasn’t a good idea? In frustration I whacked the pile with my shovel. The ice was surprisingly brittle. What looked like an impossible monolithic iced block shattered with one blow. I had a treasure trove of usable stove bolts!
Time for another Curmudgeonly Gem of Insight:
“Some problems require forethought and finesse. Others need to be walloped with a shovel. If you can’t handle ‘shovel problems’ you probably suck at ‘finesse problems’. If you’re in denial about this, you may very well be a ‘shovel problem’ yourself.”
I grabbed a stovebolt and hurled it over the ‘stairway’. It clattered on the frozen driveway. The dog stopped barking. She was either happy I wasn’t dead or decided barking at a wood chucking lunatic was unwise.
Grab, aim, toss. Lather rinse repeat. It took a while.
By sunset the living room was fully stocked with wood. The best part of engaging that last lever is the fact that you had one available.