When Mother Cooked With Wood

by Edgar Guest

I do not quarrel with the gas;
our modern range is fine;
the ancient stove was domed to pass
from Time’s grim firing line.
Yet now and then there comes to me
the thought of dinners good
and pies and cake that used to be
when Mother cooked with wood.

The axe has vanished from the yard,
the chopping block is gone,
there is no pile of cord-wood hard
for boys to work upon;
there is no box that must be filled
each morning to the hood.
Time in its ruthlessness has willed
the passing of the wood.

And yet those days were fragrant days
and spicy days and rare;
the kitchen knew a cheerful blaze
and friendliness was there.
And every appetite was keen
for breakfasts that were good
when I had scarcely turned thirteen
and Mother cooked with wood.

I used to dread my daily chore,
I used to think it tough
when Mother at the kitchen door
said I’d not chopped enough.
And on her baking days, I know,
I shirked whene’er I could
in that now happy long ago
when Mother cooked with wood.

I never thought I’d wish to see
that pile of wood again;
back then it only seemed to me
a source of care and pain.
But now I’d gladly give my all
to stand where once I stood,
if those rare days I could recall
when Mother cooked with wood.

From the book, Collected Verse of Edgar A. Guest,
©1934 by the Reilly & Lee Co

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As I have written in other posts, I was raised by my aunt and uncle, apart from my family. We lived in the city of Saskatoon, SK; they lived in a little house in the tiny town of Pathlow. And I suppose we had natural gas heat like most folks would have, but when I’d go back to Pathlow and spend a week or so with my birth parents and siblings, I got to experience the joys of the old wood stove.

My Dad had piled firewood not far from the house, quite a huge stack, as I recall. About as high as I was and maybe fifteen feet in length, full of logs sawn to about two-foot long. Most of these were too round to cram into the stove whole, so my Dad or my brother had to split wood for the stove every few days. I can remember watching them setting logs up on end and swinging the axe to split the logs.

The axe would come down into the log and usually get stuck; rarely could the chopper slice a log clean through at one blow. So he’d lift axe and block together and bring it down again on the chopping block, splitting the log the rest of the way through — or at least a little farther. Repeat as necessary to get the axe all the way through.

The wood up in northern Saskatchewan was mostly poplar a very soft wood. No hard woods like the maple or oak Mr Guest would have been splitting in the Eastern US. He would have had his work cut out for him splitting those logs. Most of the logs could be halved, but some were chopped into thin strips of kindling that would catch fire fast.

The fire in the wood stove went out every night and had to be relit every morning — with very chilly fingers if it was winter. You needed paper and thin strips of kindling to light the fire and were very thankful when it started right away. In winter the bedrooms were icy so children often came down to the kitchen wrapped in their blankets, with clothes in one hand, to dress in front of the wood stove where it was warm.

We have a small wood-burning stove set up in our living room to keep us warm in case our electricity ever fails in cold weather. When the temperature drops to -20 C outside and the power goes off for several hours, you get a mite chilly! So my husband gets the wood stove going to keep the living area and kitchen warm. As the poet writes, there’s something quite pleasant about having a wood fire going.

What brought this to mind? I opened the door this morning to let the cats go outside for a bit and I smelled wood smoke. Somebody has a wood fire going and the smoke is drifting over this way.

I hope! I hope it’s not another forest fire burning in the north.

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Book Review: Finding Sky

Book #1 in the Nicki Valentine Mystery Series
by Susan O’Brien
Published by Henery Press

I just finished reading this book and I’ll say it has a satisfying conclusion. This is the first book in a new series so the writer will gain confidence and in turn give her protagonist a little more confidence, in the next books.

I expect mysteries to be fairly fast-paced and suspenseful. This book isn’t. It’s more like chick-lit with a mystery element. Nicki Valentine tells us her story, explains her situation — a widow with two children — talks about her children’s personalities and behaviour, her fears and issues with safety, food, dirt, and germs. If you enjoy following friends’ day-to-day lives on Facebook, you’ll probably enjoy these open-hearted accounts of where they went, what they did, what they ate, games they played.

Nicki tells about her best friend and neighbor, Kenna, whose desire to have a baby adds the mystery angle to this tale. Andy and Kenna plan to adopt, but the eighteen-year-old mom-to-be has disappeared. Pregnant and alone, where did she go? Is she safe? Kidnapped by a teen gang? Kenna asks Nicki to help find this girl and we read of her efforts at interviews, stake-outs, and searches. Her search gets her involved with troubled teens and a gang member, understandably bringing yet more anxieties.

You see, Nicki is taking classes to become a private investigator. This is a huge stretch for her type. At the best of times she struggles with almost neurotic anxieties for herself and her children, has little self-confidence, and is rather a klutz. Her conscience prods her if she tells a lie in the course of investigating. Can she become a successful PI? She’s attracted to her hunky instructor but resists the attraction. Low self esteem kicks in. Why get her hopes up when he’d never be interested in her?

There’s a good story in here if you’re patient. I’m more a fan of classic mysteries where the sleuth is occupied with the whodunit puzzle rather than angst about herself and her abilities. But all this self-analysis is common in modern cozies. I found it easy to scroll through all the angst and day-to-day stuff and read the parts that actually deal with finding the missing girl. (Spoiler alert: Nicki does get her answers in the end.)

In my opinion the book could be cut by at least 30% — and I’d encourage the writer to get to know Miss Marple, who’s kind and clever, not always sure, but never floundering in self-reproach.

Nicki reminds me a lot of Salem Grimes, another new sleuth with a lot of down-to-earth issues and angst. She stars as The Trailer Park Princess, a series written by Kim Hunt Harris

What Makes An Artist

bluebirds.blossoms

by Edgar Guest

We got to talking art one day,
discussing in a general way
how some can match with brush and paint
the glory of a tree,
and some in stone can catch the things
of which the dreaming poet sings,
while others seems to have no way
to tell the joys they see.

Old Blake had sat in silence there
and let each one of us declare
our notions of what’s known as art,
until he’d heard us through.
And then said he: “It seems to me
that any man whoe’er he be,
becomes an artist by the good
he daily tries to do.

He need not write the books men read
to be an artist. No, indeed!
He need not work with paint and brush
to show his love of art;
who does a kindly deed today
and helps another on his way
has painted beauty on a face
and played the poet’s part.

Though some of us cannot express
our inmost thoughts of loveliness,
we prove we love the beautiful
by how we act and live.
The poet singing of a tree
no greater poet is than he
who finds it in his heart some care
unto a tree to give.

Though he who works in marble-stone
the name of artist here may own,
no less an artist is the man
who guards his children well.
‘Tis art to love the fine and true;
by what we are and what we do
how much we love life’s nobler things
to all the world we tell.”

From his book, Collected Verse of Edgar A Guest
© 1934 by The Reilly & Lee Company

The Tasks At Hand

I hope you’re all having a happy day of rest and reflection.

My New Year started with a phone call early this morning. I stayed up to welcome the New Year in — and read an interesting book. (Book review to come.) Then I crawled into bed and was dozing off when the phone rang at 1:10 am. My cousin in Alberta, forgetting the one-hour time difference, was calling to wish us a happy new year.

I listened to her message, then went back to bed, but was restless with my left leg paining quite much. So, up to take more Tylenol, and finally to sleep again.

This morning I arose from my bed and could walk. Joy, joy! What a blessing to be able to get up and walk around without that hobble!

In retrospect I don’t think my problem was gout, seeing there was no heat, redness, or swelling in the knee joint. Rather, I must have over-stretched something in my back when I made my bed and slipped a disk out of place. This morning the nerve down the back of my leg is still sore from being pinched, but the disk must have slid back in where it should be and the nerve isn’t being pinched anymore.

End of painful hobble. I am so delighted!

Now I can get back to my New Year’s resolution to sort out my house. I’ll start out easy by going through the top drawer on my side of our dresser. Over the years this has become my catch-all for everything that has no other place and serves no useful purpose. Skin cream samples and half-tubes, old bookmarks, a scattering of hairpins I never use, old eyeglasses I intend to donate to charity. (Wait a minute! The lenses in my old glasses are all scratched up and the frames obsolete. What charity will want them?)

I’ll try walking a mile in my daughter’s shoes. I’ll go through this drawer, asking, “Which things will she throw out when I’m gone? Which will she think are worth keeping?”

Do you have a “catch all clutter” drawer like that? What rationale do you use for sorting through stuff you’re keeping “just in case I need it someday”?

It’s time to get on with my day, so I’ll close with a New Year’s blessing to all fellow writers: 🙂
May words flow from your veins
in an unblockable stream;

may your mouse never freeze
in the middle of its tale;

may your power never blink
before you’ve hit “Save”;

and may your anti-virus preserve you
from all invasive microbes.

Germ.jpg

The Sorrow Tugs

by Edgar Guest

There’s a lot of joy in the smiling world;
there’s plenty of morning sun
and laughter and songs and dances, too,
whenever the day’s work’s done;
full many an hour is a shining one,
when viewed by itself apart,
but the golden threads in the warp of life
are the sorrow tugs at your heart

Oh, the fun is froth and it blows away,
and many a joy’s forgot,
and the pleasures come and the pleasures go,
and memory holds them not;
but treasured ever you keep the pain
that causes your tears to start,
for the sweetest hours are the ones that bring
the sorrow tugs at your heart.

The lump in you throat and the little sigh
when your baby trudged away
the very first time to the big red school–
how long will their memory stay?
The fever days and the long black nights
you watched as she, troubled, slept
and the joy you felt when she smiled once more–
how long will that all be kept?

The glad hours live in a feeble way,
but the sad ones never die.
His first long trousers caused a pang
and you saw them with a sigh.
And the big still house when the boy and girl,
unto youth and beauty grown,
to college went; will you e’er forget
that first grim hour alone?

It seems as you look back over things,
that all that you treasure dear
is somehow blent in a wondrous way
with a heart pang and a tear.
Though many a day is a joyous one
when viewed by itself apart,
the golden threads in the warp of life
are the sorrow tugs at your heart.

From his book A Heap O’ Livin’
© 1916 by the Reilly & Britton Co.

Memory

by Edgar Guest

And if I shall remember
the tulips of the spring,
the Christmas each December
the songs the children sing,
their bits of merry laughter
which meant so much to me,
that’s all in that hereafter
I’ll keep in memory.

I do not ask to go there
with boastful tales to tell;
I’d like to have them know there
this life I’ve loved so well.
I would recall a few things
my eyes rejoiced to see,
the tender and the true things
which brightened life for me.

And shall I wake from sleeping
to face eternity
but these I would be keeping
of earthly memory;
but these I would remember:
the songs the children sing
the Christmas each December,
the tulips in the spring.

From the Collected Verse of Edgar A. Guest
© 1934 by the Reilly & Lee Company

She’s Somewhere Else

Dementia

Grandma’s somewhere else
though she sits beside me.
Though I hold her hand
and we chat about little things
she might remember.

I didn’t tell her
it rained again last night,
that fall is here; the trees are bare.

Today’s rain can’t touch her;
Grandma’s somewhere else
where the trees are ever green–
where she barely hears my voice.

— C.G. (2013)

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I wrote this story as my Friday Flash Fiction contribution this week.
The exactly-100-words story posted was yesterday on Friday Tales:

A LIGHT LOOK

That streetlight looks so familiar, Adina thought. But where’s Henry? Why has he left me here?

“Mom. Stop!” Adina turned and saw Judy running down the sidewalk toward her.

“You were to stay in the house and wait for me, Mom.”

“But I have to find Dad. We’re supposed to go somewhere.”

Judy took her by the arm. “You have an appointment, remember. I’m taking you. I just stopped for a quick pee first.”

Adina chuckled. “You’re too old to pee, Judy.”

Judy burst out laughing, wiping away a tear. “Come on. Let’s get in the car.”

Why does she cry when she laughs? Adina wondered. What’s wrong with that girl?