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Labor of Love: Building woodpiles could be the lost art of courtship

Thoreau said that every man looks at his woodpile with a kind of affection. For my uncle, it was an obsession.

When he and his wife retired to several wooded acres near Tyler, Texas, cutting firewood became my uncle’s main form of outdoor recreation. When he died, my aunt worried about the many cords of firewood crammed into their barn. Must she get rid of it all before selling their home? How would she tackle such a task?

Turns out, she needn’t have worried.

The widower who bought her property was thrilled with the romantic notion of heating with fuel sourced from the land. After my aunt sidestepped his shy awkward attempts to ask her out, the kind older gent discovered an unexpected use for my uncle’s firewood when he became smitten with an attractive sixty-something bachelorette living nearby.

In Norway, they say you can tell a lot about a person from their woodpile. There are even guidelines for those who wish to marry:

– Upright and solid pile: Upright and solid mate.

– A lot of wood: A mate of foresight, loyal.

– Everything in a pile on the ground: Ignorance, decadence,
  laziness, drunkenness, possibly all of these.

– No woodpile: No spouse.

I have no idea if the man my aunt rebuffed was a student of Scandinavian lore, but he began to court his fetching new neighbor by transporting premium seasoned oak to her porch. I have to wonder if this woman was warmed each time she glimpsed her thoughtful suitor rolling into view. I like to imagine that, by the time spring arrived, they fell in love and hitched their wagons for life. In my movie version, they tend a large garden and live simply, ecstatically; and, though they age, they never grow cold. 

Thoreau also said that firewood logs warmed him twice: ‘once while splitting them and again as they burned’. The famous hermit himself might have enjoyed a bit more company than he is thought to have sought had he discovered and embraced this other benefit from being prepared for whatever weather may come. Maybe instead of the soulless courtship of dating apps, we should build woodpiles. 

Cover photo: Courtesy of Getty Images

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