Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Simple Supply and Demand

Although I could live as a modern suburbanite now, with heat that comes on by itself and no need to walk out my back door, I still use the wood stove to provide most of the heat.

Hot iron gives more even warmth than the propane Monitor or the fake wood stove in the living room. Those breathe out their heat when the flames dance, but subside to cold metal while the house chills enough to alarm their thermostats again.

A fire takes more than logs. I still pick up kindling and pine cones from the woods. It's a simple act that connects me to the entire history of human gathering. So much of what we use now we gather from stores, using the intermediary of money to mask the simple act of finding a useful basic element and bringing it home. You'd get arrested if you just gathered a cart full of stuff from local stores and carried it home without going through the checkout line.

Trash picking and Dumpster diving are forms of gathering, but not quite the same as identifying a natural resource and picking it up directly. When I go out with an empty pail in search of pine cones I spot and select them with much more care and attention than a lowly pine cone ever inspires at other times. When I go to a berry patch with empty containers, at first I'm daunted by the task of filling them one small fruit at a time. It's as far as you can get from scooping up a pre-packed pint or quart from the supermarket and heading for the express lane.

This isn't about character building or knowing the true cost of things. It's about picking up something that nature provided, and using it directly, without modification, to make your own life more comfortable. Pine tree makes pine cones, cones serve their reproductive purpose, I use what's left to start warming fire for my lair. The simple process shows what lies beneath all the other complicated structures and procedures we use to extract what we want or need from the Earth. Find where it's lying and figure out how to pick it up. When it's gone, find more or find something else. If it's something that grows back, wait for the next crop.

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