Mainewhile: There’s more than 1 way to kill the chill

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I did it. This very morning, I did it. I caved. I broke. I turned on the heat.

Not very high, and not for very long, but that’s not really the point, is it? We all know, deep in our souls, the significance of that moment.

These days, first heat is a different experience than it used to be. These days, I live here, in Brunswick. My home is small, but sweet. It is not a particularly impressive or grand abode, but I am betting if you saw it, you’d smile a bit. It’s sweet, like I said.

I share this home with my honey, my kids, a bunch of dogs, and a rabbit, and I like it. I like it a lot. I am stating this quite clearly, because I am about to get all nostalgic about the place where I used to live and I wouldn’t want you to get the wrong idea. I love my little home and my life here.

First heat here, in this snug little home, means crossing over that mental divide – and it’s a struggle to be sure – and turning the thermostat. It’s a struggle. There is deep significance to that one act. It is an acknowledgment that winter is, in fact, going to happen. Soon. Winter is around the corner. Turning the thermostat is a mental caving in. It is bowing to the reality that, despite being all hearty and what-not, the living room feels a bit nippy.

First heat in my old home was a bit more, let’s say, primal.

Before Brunswick, I lived up the coast in a small cabin in the woods. I’m not kidding about the small part. The two kids, the pack of dogs, the rabbit and I all made our home in 724 square feet of funky, slightly slipshod, cabin. The walls were bookshelves, the floors were polka dot, the windows were large, and the only heat came from one small soapstone wood stove.

With a cabin so small, you might think that the one wood stove was ample. Let me repeat, it was a small wood stove. Also, the cabin windows were single-pane and the insulation was questionable. In order to maintain a livable level of warmth, that wood stove had to be fed every two hours. Even through the night.

Each winter it was like having a newborn all over again. Every two hours, wake up, feed the stove, back to bed. Repeat. On the coldest of nights, we’d have “living room camping” because bedrooms just didn’t get warm enough.

First heat in the cabin was something that had to be thought through in a much more thorough way, planned for, and worked for. There was no thermostat to turn, no oil company to call for a fresh delivery. Once you found and ordered your wood, the splitting and stacking began. I didn’t have a shed, so come high summer, my yard became a maze of pallets and tarps, painstakingly prepared for maximum storage, protection, and accessibility. Getting the wood up properly meant surviving the winter.

It was a lot of work, a lot of worry, and a lot of effort. I loved it. I loved the snug feeling of being prepared, self reliant, ready for the seasons to change. In that cabin, I was connected and in tune. Even more, I loved the rituals and the relationships. Because, here’s the thing: The guys from whom I bought my wood? They did not think like me.

There were a lot of good-natured jokes about the liberal bumper stickers on my car’s back bumper, a lot of smiles and shakes of the head as I quipped right back with them. We did not think alike. I am quite certain we did not vote alike. And yet. And yet there they were, in my drive, laughing and joking as I prepared my home against the coming cold.

Sure, sure, I was paying them, but that’s not it. It wasn’t just that I was a customer. Those guys went out of their way to help a little more than they had to, make sure I had the tarp on right, double check I had enough – and more than once check on me mid-winter to be sure the pile was holding up and I was OK.

Being brought back to the basics is a powerful thing. So as I turn my thermostat for the first time, I am remembering the magic of putting up the wood – and the ability to laugh, joke and feel camaraderie with someone on the other side of the opinion divide.

Brunswick resident Heather D. Martin wants to know what’s on your mind; email her at heather@heatherdmartin.com.

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