I am willing to admit it. I am a self-proclaimed “Wood Slut.” A wood slut is a person who diligently watches for and follows the work of power line crews working along any public roadway as they trim trees and limbs to prevent outages along the grid.
The ease and beauty experienced by the Certified Wood Slut is astonishing, really. First of all, the wood slut does not have to take a life in the forest for his or her own needs. The killing has already occurred. Secondly, the crew also chips the small branches so there is no brush to trip over and haul out of sight if one was working on their own land. And, how about some free fire wood? Can’t beat that! In addition, this wood slut’s competitive spirit gets stroked, being the first on site before the other wood sluts sure to follow.
This particular batch I slutted was profoundly satisfying. The crew was on my own gravel road that I live off; therefore, it could not have been more local. I asked my neighbors if they minded or wanted to share in the bounty and I got the green light to have my way with it. My favorite! Load after load after load I slutted, smiling and dreaming of next winter’s warmth.
From the age of zero to 14, I was forced to slut with my father, mother and our Springer Spaniel, Mike. I was well versed in the art of Wood Slutting and one may say it is in my blood. My father was never more tickled then when he came across a blow down or the hard wood remnants of some logging operation he was waiting to pounce upon. Dad was the ultimate slut, having a special pass to gated paper company land with permission to pick over anything they left behind, much to my disgust. This was my least favorite way to spend a weekend at the time—a pubescent prisoner to the master wood slut.
Now, my dear father smiles down upon me as I do the same. Oh, the humble irony as I sit on the tailgate of the truck in between loads sipping hot tea and dunking Fig Newtons in, just like he did. I can hear his chuckle and feel his satisfaction while reminiscing about our slutting days together and now as I follow in his frugal footsteps.
This fall, I find myself processing the wood slutted from last April’s snow banks. I collected it all, from 1” diameter to about 12”, all that my back feels good about lifting.
I begin to separate the limbs from the trunks as I saw them into stove length pieces. My mind fantasizes about how the small wood will be used for cooking and baking since they create a hot fire to heat the wood-fired kitchen cook stove. I dream of sights and smells of bread rising, soup simmering, and beans cooking with the snow falling from the winter sky outside. As I toss the trunks into the slowly rising pile, I can see which ones will be the “all nighters” and those that keep the cabin warm during my snowshoeing treks following the well-worn porcupine trails along the mountain ledges.
I appreciate the final turn in the life circle of each tree as it gives itself to me, heating my heart, my hearth and my soul as I plan for nesting during the storms ahead. I stop to smell the subtle differences between the mountain oak, the beech, the maple, and thank them all for all they give.
May I use them well.
Jen Deraspe, owner of Nurture Through Nature, is a holistic retreat facilitator and practitioner of The Work of Byron Katie. She lives off the grid on Pleasant Mountain in Denmark, Maine. www.ntnreats.com, (207) 452-2929.