I don’t know what you did today, but I stacked wood. Lots of it, and I’m only a quarter done.
See, I spent the better part of forty years living in various parts of Boston, hemorrhaging money out of every pocket and every pore because living in Boston is like losing the lottery, every day, a little at a time. It costs fifty bucks just to walk out the front door in that town. It’s my favorite place in the world, don’t misunderstand me – if, in the fullness of time, I find myself living on Neptune, I will reply, when asked where I’m from, “Go Red Sox” – but gadzooks, is it pricey.
So I got married, and then my daughter came along, and all of a sudden, spending a massive pile each month between rent, utilities, food, gas and the occasional new shirt seemed excessive after baby expenses were added to the mix. Long story short: it was time to go. After a flurry of packing and a caravan of friends with large trucks, we found ourselves in a wonderful house at the far end of five miles of dirt road, embraced by New Hampshire forest that seems to have no end.
Which is why I spent today stacking wood. The furnace here is half oil-burning, half wood-burning, and a quick check on oil prices combined with some very simple math convinced us that we will save eleventy zillion dollars this year by deploying the wood-burning portion of the equation as soon as is feasible…and so, a few days ago, a couple of very large trucks dumped four cords of wood into the back yard in a giant, untidy pile.
Today, I stacked wood. I pulled on my rawhide gloves, fortified myself with some fine Irish whiskey, and built a proper cord: 4 x 4 x 8, part exercise program, part architecture project, part geometry problem, wheelbarrow after wheelbarrow after wheelbarrow, until it was high and tight and just right. You could hit the stack I built today with an Exocet missile, and the missile would go running to its mother with a bloody nose.
One log at a time, this way and that, this way and that, with plenty of space left for it all to breathe, until there was at the end a structure made from sweat (and a little whiskey) I could be proud of, and could go to school on to build the other three that were waiting to be formed out of the untidy pile in the yard. I would have gotten a start on the second cord, but the sun dove out of sight like it did something wrong. It was the first time in my life that Daylight Savings Time actively pissed me off.
The nifty thing about work like that, in the cold, northern air, is the time it gives you to think.
There I was, rolling the wheelbarrow to the woodpile, filling it up, toting it over to the spot I picked to build the cord, unloading it one splintery log at a time, being careful with each placement to find the right spot for each log, so that each individual piece would strengthen the main, and then going back to repeat the process, and again, and again, and again, until I had constructed something that was beautiful because it existed, strong because of how it was made, and a perfect good because it would sustain my family even in the darkest of days.
This is politics, I realized as I laid down the last pieces of that first part of the process. This, right here, is power.
One year from today, every single seat in the House of Representatives will be up for a vote, as will a third of the Senate, a pile of Governor’s offices, and hundreds of legislative offices in every state. Because it is not a presidential election year, maybe 35 percent of the eligible voters in the country will show up to vote in an election that will, in every meaningful way, decide who will be running the entire country.
All you need to see in order to understand just how poorly that level of voter turnout has been working out for each and every one of us is the front page of any newspaper in America. War, unemployment, government shutdown, economic chaos, dead kids because of guns…yeah, all that, because of that.
The only people stacking logs in America right now are the ones who think women’s rights don’t count, who think warfare is a sustainable economic engine because they’re the ones making the money from it, who think Wall Street and industry should be untouchable, who think taxes are evil even as they feast like vampires upon the open vein of government largesse…and a substantial majority of the 35 percent that will vote next year have been irretrievably convinced of this, and will vote to sustain it even as it guts their future.
Someone once said that decisions are made by those who show up.
When 70 percent of the country does not do so, we get this mess.
I spent today stacking wood, one log at a time, each in its place, again and again, until a structure was built that will sustain my family no matter how hard the winter winds may blow. If I only did 35 percent of the job, I’d be a pretty profound jackass, and a lazy hypocrite besides, if I complained about the lack of heat come February.
Stack the wood.