I have a wood stove at my house. That’s how I mainly heat my home. During the fall/winter of 2017/2018, after cutting and splitting firewood, I noticed a few pieces that featured an intricate collage of moss and fungi. (At the time, I had been hanging out with my artistic cousin, Erica, who loves using natural elements in her floral and other creations. Seeing her in action has given me a whole new appreciation for things I typically took for granted – like moss on a piece of wood.)
As I gathered wood for my fire, I would lay aside these natural masterpieces. I just couldn’t bring myself to destroy them. They were too beautiful. “There must be something I could do with them,” I thought to myself. With every unique piece I found, that pile of beautiful wood kept growing….
One day in late December, I found myself low on wood, especially small pieces of wood needed to grow a young fire. Small pieces like those in my beauty wood pile would work perfectly, but I just couldn’t do it. I couldn’t burn my beauty wood. I searched through my pile of regular logs. No small wood. I reluctantly looked towards the pile of nature’s art that I had been keeping and collecting. I shook my head and turned back to the less aesthetically-pleasing pile continuing to search. “There has GOT to be a couple pieces of small wood here that I can use,” I thought to myself. I finally found some large, thick pieces of bark and made use of those. The beauty wood lived to lay another day.
A few weeks later, the bark pile was getting smaller, and I had used all the good pieces. I turned to the beauty pile, shook my head, and managed to wrangle up some other odds and ends pieces that I made work. I saw the potential so much in that beauty wood that I was willing to make it harder on myself to live and survive than to burn it. “It has so much potential,” I thought. “I will figure out a way to use it!” The pile of wood continued to decorate and take up space in my large, cold, dark garage while I sat in my well-decorated (to my liking), homey dwelling. I was comforted knowing the beauty wood pile was just right outside in my garage should I ever need it. It wasn’t being used to it’s fullest potential, but it was in safe-keeping, nonetheless.
A couple more weeks went by, the odds and ends wood and the bark pile continued to shrink until one very cold night. I came in after being gone a good portion of the day. The fire was completely out and the house was getting pretty chilly. I walked into the garage. There was no odds and ends wood that would work and the bark pile had dwindled to nothing useful. Still, I was determined. “I will NOT burn that pretty wood!” Even though it had sat in the same cold, dark spot for the last month. The only time I had touched the pile was when I added more to my growing collection. It was like Smaug’s gold. (A little nugget for any Lord of the Rings fans out there.)
I gathered any little bits and pieces of wood I could find without touching my beauty wood and downstairs I went determined to start a fire to keep myself warm and defend my home against the icy, winter weather. I prepped the stove, lit the fire, and off it went. The little odds and ends pieces were burning good. The only problem was I had no medium-sized wood to help grow the fire. I only had large, heavy pieces that would just smother the little blaze. I tried again. And again. And again. The fire was not going, and I could feel more cold sinking into my body. I knew what I had to do…
I, very reluctantly and painstakingly, walked outside to my treasure pile and started to gather an arm load. I carried my beloved finds downstairs to the stove feeling their impending doom and the sadness I felt because I was about to destroy this wonderful creation just so I could survive and be comfortable. It seemed so unfair. So unjust. “How can I destroy something with so much potential just to keep myself comfortable?” I thought. “How can I give up?!”
I dropped my treasures in the wood box with the same dismissive, rough actions I did with any of the “regular” wood. (Ok, maybe a little less rough.) I saw some of the pretty moss fall off as the wood crashed deep into the box – the first little dagger to my heart. I went over to check the stove. “Maybe the tiny wood and the gigantic wood had decided to work together?” I hoped. Nope, the big wood continued to smother the small wood.
I removed the large piece of wood, and let the little fire breathe. It thanked me with growing flames accompanied by a wealth of crackles and pops to tell me it was feeling healthier and stronger. I stared down at it like a mother looks at her hungry baby. It had to be fed.
Turning towards the wood box, the little creative voice in my head screamed “There’s got to be another way!” but I knew in my heart, I had to burn the beauty wood in order to survive. I gently grabbed a piece and lifted it out of the wood box watching more of the natural decoration fall from the little log – another dagger to the heart. I carried it towards the hungry baby that seemed to look up at me with excited eyes waiting to be fed. I gave a thankful look to the beauty wood for the pleasure it had given me and gently laid it in the stove. Piece by beautiful piece, I fed the fire, and with every beautiful piece the house got warmer and warmer, as did I.
Those pieces of wood, as lovely as they were, did nothing for me sitting in that garage. They were merely a collection – a safe-keeping I knew could have tons of potential, that could be made into something wonderful. A collection I knew could make me very happy one day if I could just figure out how to use it.
Truth be told, when the beauty wood pile started to diminish, I felt some relief. In all honesty, the more the pile had grown, the more overwhelmed I got. “All this wood is so beautiful! I can’t burn it, but how am I going to use it all?” I felt pressure to make it work, to find some way to utilize the wood because of it’s promising potential. But it was too much.
I continued to burn the beauty pile until I could gather and split more regular wood. When I finally found time to restock, only a few pieces of beauty wood remained – a much more manageable pile. So I gathered the last treasured pieces and took them to my living room where a huge, stone fireplace greeted me. I, gently and artistically, stacked my last treasured pieces on one of the massive stone wings of the fireplace. I stood back to look. Perfect. Those few pieces were just the right touch to add a cozy feeling to the room. I didn’t NEED my whole pile to make this happen. As it turned out, as much as it pained me to burn my beloved pile of beauty wood, it was what I needed to do to survive, and I was able to keep a few of the pieces to remember that large stack of natural art. The pieces I had left decorated my dwelling in exactly the way I needed it to. It made my home grow. It made my home more complete even in the heartbreak of letting some of it go. Burning the beauty wood kept me safe, healthy, and allowed me to thrive even though it was hard to say good-bye.
Unfortunately, sometimes that’s what we have to do in life. Whether it be a friendship, a relationship, a job, or whatever – even though you see the potential it could have, the potential to be something beautiful and great… A relationship is not helping you if it’s just sitting there or if it grows to be something overwhelming. If you’re in a situation like that, you will come to a point where you feel your inner fire smothering and your heart, body, and/or soul getting cold. That’s when you know you have to burn your beauty wood – you have to say good-bye to the potential it could be, realize it’s never going to be, and let it go so you can be healthy and survive.
As it was with my beauty wood, literal and metaphorical, there came a time when I knew that pile full of potential was simply becoming overwhelming. I didn’t want to let it go, but I eventually had to in order to save myself, to care for my well-being. It was sad, and I hurt, but I survived because of it. Life hands us many situations like this. Some big, some small. Burning our beauty wood is a sad thing, but, if you’re lucky, you will have some pieces left over that you can look at, enjoy, and remember all the beauty they represented. Just because my big, beautiful treasure pile was gone didn’t mean I wouldn’t have something always to remember it by, something that made my home warmer and more complete. The same is with our metaphorical beauty wood: If we’re lucky, we still have pieces of beauty that helped our soul, our home, continue to grow and be complete. The loss of our metaphorical beauty wood is bittersweet – we have to burn it to survive, but we are better because of its existence, healthier because of its departure, and less overwhelmed because the pile is gone.