As soon as the temperature drops below 10 degrees Celsius, a strange phenomenon occurs in Storries Beach. When you turn onto Seawave from the highway, an acrid odour assails your nostrils, and a heavy grey haze hangs over the neighbourhood. Oh no, is the forest burning? Is my house on fire? Is this the scene of a horror movie? No, it is simply the result of numerous people lighting up their woodstoves at the same time. Yes, the denizens of Storries Beach, who have been busy with buzzing chainsaws for months now, and loading chunks of bucked-up wood onto burgeoning wood piles, can finally set their labour to light.
There is nothing quite like wood heat to stave off the dampness of our island climate and it is especially welcome during the dark days when it seems the rain will never end. I have a theory that the sight of the flames is beneficial for SAD sufferers (Seasonal Affective Disorder) – those who have difficulty dealing with winter blues as soon as the lack of light descends. Although the treatment generally prescribed is to sit in front of a special full spectrum light bulb, it would seem to me that any light, especially accompanied by warmth, would give a person an uplifted feeling (at least, it works for me). Candle light is also somehow therapeutic when the days are short.
We don’t have a woodstove, but we do have a wood burning fireplace. I enjoy this fireplace even though I am told that it heats in an insufficient manner. That is probably true, but as soon as the fire is going, the house feels warmer and I feel cozy. I like disposing of unwanted paper products in the flames, especially as we have no recycling in the district.
My in-laws heat with wood, and my 81 year old father-in-law Al was out actively chopping wood until this summer, when a health issue prevented him from continuing. I believe they have enough wood stock piled on their property to last several years anyway (seven or eight?). Al says his preferred wood for heating is hemlock as it burns clean (fir for example has a lot of pitch in it) and throws off a lot of heat. So much heat in fact, that the last time we visited, the inside thermometer registered 90 degrees Fahrenheit (about 32 Celsius)! My hubby and I were a trifle warm, accustomed as we are to our faulty fireplace and being bundled up in sweaters. When the whole family is there, the house takes on sauna-like conditions. But Al enjoys his wood fire, no doubt especially more so now that he can’t be out chopping it, at least he can burn it.
I love the scent of yellow cedar, which smells truly heavenly when burning and it reminds me of open fires on the beach. The beach incidentally, is where most people find it in the form of washed up logs. I have heard that a licence is required if one wishes to collect logs from the beach, so before rushing down to shore to reap the bounty, it would be a good idea to check up on regulations.
We are fortunate to live where wood is plentiful and relatively cheap, and where we can still use it as fuel. New laws are not permitting wood stoves in homes in certain areas. For as long as it is possible, it will be my first choice. I almost look forward to the cold, so that I can enjoy the fire. That is, until I have the chance to head south (like some people I know!!!)