Painting a Picture

January 17, 2010

Short story

Maybe a few of you can relate…..

Each step crunches through a hardened crust of snow as I walk the tree-lined stream-bed towards the cabin.  It’s easier going on the snow-covered ice.  Long since frozen, there is no fear of falling through.  The stream is only knee-deep, anyway.

The snow softens everything.  The thickness of the ice mutes the water’s movement underneath.  Sounds seem to hide in the snow-upholstered limbs of the pine.  A bird flies to a silent landing high above, but it does not call.  Everything is quietly preparing for night. 

It is already dusk.  The hope of breaking the firewood loose from its icy crust before dark has vanished.  Everything will need completing without the warmth of day.  It doesn’t matter much, though.  The fire, once started, will be an acceptable surrogate.  If I can shave enough kindling without losing too many fingers I’ll be alright. 

Even though the cabin isn’t home, it sure feels good.  Work.  Elements.  Cold.  When taxed to our extremes, the wants of our body become very basic.  Covering, warmth, and food; aside from God what more could I want. 

The door creaked in the dark.  The mice scattered.  The newspaper shreds they’ve called their recent home will make for good starter; and hopefully some of the rodent smell will burn with it.  At least there wasn’t anything larger to fend off.  Rabid coons make vehement homesteaders.  The pot-bellied stove hadn’t been fired for a long time and, oddly, had a petrified squirrel inside.  Apparently, it was able to get down the flue pipe, but not up.

I felt around the cabinet for the matches and didn’t find them.  Usually they were kept in the tin beside the coffee cups.  Maybe the person to last use them left them on the shelf by the stove.  Searching around in the dark is hard even if things are where you last remembered them.  With the door open I can see shapes and shadows, but no colors and certainly no detail.  It’s reflective of the extent to which we can view our own souls.  Not hardly seeing to the depth that God can see. 

I found the matches on the shelf, but now I have a couple of splinters to show for my efforts.  I’ll have to dig them out later, once I get the fire lit;…wait, we brought a lamp with us last time.  I wonder if there’s any more kerosene?  For years the place was lit only by fire, but we grew tired of twisting our backs into awkward positions to get light from the stove to read.   With the lamp, you can set it on the table and lie on your bunk comfortably.  It’s an appreciated convenience.

It’s always a treat to pull the boots off.  I like to think of it as the singular moment that marks the end of the day.  The work is complete, the cabin is warm and the bowels are empty.  I put my socks over a chair by the stove to dry out, because the fire is now burning hot.  I can hear the ice melting and falling from the firewood stacked against the wall.  It’s a little wet, but it should burn pretty good. 

More huntsmen drink tea than what you’d think.  I like it.  It’s good to have something warm at night.  Besides, the sound of water in the coffeepot keeps me company. 

I packed in a work of Bunyan’s.  John, that is.  Not the one with the blue ox.  I don’t think he wrote much.  There is no more peaceful thing than falling to sleep with a thought of God on your mind.  I pray he gives me strength to get through the day tomorrow.  My eyes are half-shut, though, and I don’t think I’ve read half a page.  There’s no sense wasting the lamp fuel.   The sound of the sizzling wood is a sleep aid. 

Good Night.

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