I’ve come to love the idea of firewood. At our home in the mountains we have a woodstove we use for heat. It means there’s chopping to be done, splitting, piling and ensuring there’s kindling around when mornings are frosty and cold. It’s a chore but it never feels like it.

            My friends Ed and Ron and I headed up the logging road to cut fir a month or so ago. We were up a long way and the country was thick with trees and the view was amazing. The air was fresh and there were no sounds except for the chains saws and the solid whack of the axe and splitters. We spent the whole morning working.

            They’d come to help me get the winter’s wood in. Their wood piles were high and deep and it was time to make sure we had enough to see us through. There was a truckload when we were done and the talk was good.

 Ed and Ron are Ukrainians. They’re older than me by a few years and their lives settled on different tracks than mine. They grew up in predictable ways, surrounded by family and friends and they built regular careers then retired to the lake and the mountains.

             My life was far from that. As a displaced kid I never really had a chance to settle anywhere. When I grew older, that pattern seemed to follow me. I roamed the country looking for a peg to hang my life on and a place to call my home.

            As native people we’re descendents of a nomadic culture and it sometimes feels as though I spent my life wandering. But here in the hills, friends like Ed and Ron and the simple act of getting together to load in winter wood, makes all differences vanish.

            There’s a charm to that. There’s a rustic sense of an older, more settled Canada. Neighbours being neighbours and chores getting done. Walking to the house with an armload of wood takes me back to the sense of that.

            There are no Ukrainians or Indians when you work together. There’s just neighbours. There’s just community. There’s just the very real sense of belonging and order and hope that a simple thing like firewood might bring us back to that. It can if we let it. Unity is the kindling of community – my Ukrainian friends taught me that.


About Richard Wagamese

I am a published author with 13 titles published by major Canadian publishers. I am a First Nations person from the Ojibway Nation in Northwestern, Ontario, Canada. As a professional writer since 1979 I have written for newspaper, radio television, magazines and book publishing. I love the culture of books and the people who populate it. 2012 recipient of the National Aboriginal Achievement Award for Media & Communications. View all posts by Richard Wagamese

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