She needs firewood.
Although I am not sure why given the fire is already established.
Yet here I am, in the snow, getting ready to chop the wood.
I crunch over the snow to the woodpile.
The snow is white and clean. Freshly fallen during the day.
I pick up a small log, place in on the block then pick up the axe.
The air is crisp. Able to pick up a scent and carry it for miles.
I lift the axe up above my head.
There are sounds of the few birds still flying around, the beating of their wings as they arrow themselves through the air, finds its way to my ears almost as if they were flying right by my ear.
I take aim, lift the axe over my head and swing downwards, attempting to time the hit rather than using brute force.
She does’t really need the wood. There is enough beside the fire for the next couple of days. She always overdoes it. Thinking that somehow the next day will be the end of all wood in the world. Regardless of the good stockpile already in place.
I mean, one bad year where we were seriously cold. Just one bad year wrapped up in our blankets, freezing together. She disliked it, I personally felt there were benefits to be had.
She did too.
But still, it was too cold to suffer it again.
And the benefits can still be had with a warm fire in place.
The log cracks. Up goes the axe, swing down, I get the timing right, the wood splinters.
She is inside, warm. Probably in the kitchen already. Brewing up a hot chocolate for me.
I am not sure how long I will be able to manage the physical side of this lifestyle. I am not young. I am not middle aged. I am certainly knocking loudly on the door of old age.
I am strong enough for my age. But my ankle is not exactly solid anymore. My arms can do the work, but not for as long. After a day’s work I ache. I never use to ache.
She is amazing. Every time I stop to consider my love, I have to take a deep breath and count my lucky stars.
We met in later life. After each of us had put ourselves through our respective personal turmoil’s. Married incorrectly. In my case, twice.
Having developed our personal self-doubts, and acceptance that life is not fair and that we may as well just accept the inevitable idea that maybe it is not the world that is wrong, but us. That somehow, regardless of how nice we are, there doesn’t seem to be someone who neatly fits into our personal puzzle of love. Or maybe an incomplete puzzle, the final piece firmly hidden somewhere secret.
Up goes the axe. Hold. Swing down. Time it right for the right end.
She likes to garden. Fresh food plucked from the ground. Silver beet leaves so crisp that they crunch loudly as you pull them apart. Herbs from her various hidey holes. All I need to do is give her a list of ingredients and ten minutes later, there they are. On the kitchen bench delivered with a warm smile and a fresh kiss.
Almost every day.
I didn’t put on the right boots. The snow was seeping through the shoes and onto my feet, freezing them. I should be annoyed about being out here. I could have said no to her. But how can I when she smiles at me long enough. Yes, it is crazy having three days of wood beside the fireplace when two is enough. Yes, it is freezing out here and toasty warm within the log walls we call home.
But she keeps asking nicely, with her smile and begging blue eyes. I suppose I don’t really mind so much. I pretend to be grumpy at times, but every time I finish there is a warm feeling inside my heart.
I remember being young. Falling in love. Thinking this time, this time, this time she is the one. But each time, each time, each time I selected poorly. My heart got broken, my soul crushed and into the hole I would go.
Sometimes I stayed when I should have gone. Entering the deep dark soulless abyss of depression simply because I did not see the way out.
I wonder if I should chop some more wood? I have an armful already, it should be enough.
I decide to take the chance, replace the axe safely and securely. Wrap my arms around the pile of wood, trying to carry every piece to avoid a second toe freezing walk back.
Crunching back across the snow, wood sticking into my arms, I will survive.
I climb the stairs, kick the boots off and enter our home. Without much thought I turn left, place the wood near the fireplace, being sure to do it neatly. She likes neat stacks. I am not so fussed. But if I want to snuggle in on the couch, I need to stack neatly.
It is the small things that count.
I stand, brush myself off. I have left a small mess now. Might take five extra minutes of smiles and hugs to be comfortable tonight.
I look over to the kitchen to see her. She has the light shining from behind her. Creating a sunny silhouette. Her hair is still a dark golden blond. Her shape has the curves exactly as I like them. I can make out her smile and her eyes.
“All done” I say, ignoring the mess I made while brushing off.
She just stands there, holding a warm cup, steam brimming over the edges with a warm delight. She just stands there, smiling.
Say what you want about young love, the dream of eternal togetherness from youth to old age. I know many who have had the dream shattered. I will happily take a tough love life in youth and end it well with a wonderful partner just towards the end.
Get the timing right, have the right end.