A Cardinal Sin: Envy

Woodpile with Doorway and Sheep

There are plenty of things to be envious of in life. You can envy someone’s car. You can envy someone’s house. You can envy their jobs, or the places they’ve traveled, or the length of their vacations, or their bodies, or their looks, or their well-behaved kids, or even their perfectly manicured, wonderfully trained pets. But, not me. I’m not envious of these things at all. If I see a Porsche drive by, I don’t give it a second look. And large, beautiful mansions appear to me as too much upkeep and a lot of wasted space. And if I see a ripped bod on some muscle-bound dude, it just looks to me like a lot of work. But, I do suffer from that cardinal sin of envy; I do covet. But, it’s nothing that you would guess. Never, not in a million years.

I suffer from wood envy.

Coming up in a few weeks, we are about to move into our new house. It’s the first house we have ever owned, and you would imagine I would be jazzed about all the incredible features that attracted us to the house in the first place. Well, I am. But, the thing I’m looking forward to most is not the spa, and it’s not the large backyard, and it’s not our view, and it’s not the sun-roofed, multi-windowed, peak-ceilinged family room that looks out on said backyard and view. Sure, I’m excited about all of these things. But there is one feature of the house that has grabbed my brain and has not let go since day one. Since I first saw the house, I have been consumed. I have been enchanted. I have been bewitched. It is the wood-burning stove.

Ever since I was a little kid, I’ve been fascinated with fire. From stoking campfires on camping trips, to neighborhood fires in our firepit at home, to burning wood in a BBQ to keep warm during a cold winter night, there’s just been something about fire that has drawn me, something about wood burning and the heat that comes from it that attracts my gaze. If there’s a fire in a room, it’s difficult for me to look away.

And I don’t know what it is. The smell of the smoke. The pop of the logs. The crackle of the fire. The red-orange embers that live on past the fire’s death which still pulsate and throb with a heat and energy all their own. Something there is that draws me, and always has. And the thought of having a wood-burning stove in our house, the thought of being able to have a fire whenever I want, fills me with a joy that is beyond any sort of logic or comprehension. I am diggin’ the stove!

Which leads me to wood envy. Any good fire-preparer knows that in order to start a fire and maintain it, you need wood…and lots of it. We had a saying in my family whenever we went camping and scrounged through the forest for felled branches and trees, ripped apart logs and limbs, and stockpiled cord after cord of wood: “You can never have enough wood.” Even when the pile was 5 feet wide and 4 feet high and we only had one night left, the question still pecked at our minds: do we have enough wood?

So I have been trained. And now that we have a wood-burning stove and I know that we will have to maintain a fire for months on end to heat us through the winter, the question that consumes me is: oh my God, where are we going to get enough wood?

Almost immediately after hearing that our offer was accepted, I began hoarding wood. The oak across the street from us lost a large limb last winter, and my neighbor helped me saw it into smaller pieces so I could take advantage of that windfall. I’ve sawn off the dead branches on the walnut tree in our yard. During a walk through the neighborhood, I’ve had Jame help me carry back some large twigs in the road that have fallen from a tree. And even now, I am picturing a couple branches of oak that have been left on the side of the road down the street from us, and wondering when and how I’ll be able to get that wood over to our new house. It’s an obsession. I am obsessed with wood. (Don’t believe me yet? How about this? Right now, I am storing all of my wood along the side of our house, in plain sight for any pedestrian or car that passes by. Do I need to tell you how many times I’ve worried that someone might come along, see all that glorious wood, and grab it for themselves? Good, then you get the point.)

So, now I think you can understand my wood envy. And now you know why whenever I pass a house that has a major woodpile going on (I’m talking 6-7 feet high and 20-30 feet long), I can’t help but give a mental salute and shake my head in wonder. Take for example the picture I’ve included in this posting; the caption tells you everything. This guy has such a big woodpile that he has to make a doorway in it for his sheep to get around his property. That guy is my idol.

I don’t know if I have a purpose in writing this. Maybe it’s a confession. Maybe it’s a cry for help. Or maybe I just want to share with whoever might be reading this – sometimes, you can surprise yourself. I never knew I had full-blown wood envy until recently. How could I know that a Ferrari could pass me without incident but a woodpile could make me turn my head? How could I know that a provocative TV commercial wouldn’t interest me in the slightest but a fallen tree would make me wonder about the possibilities? How could I know I would be so caught up on such a dull and mundane thing as wood? I have shocked myself…and I can only wonder: what next? Rocks?

So, don’t be surprised if you learn something new about yourself, that you have a passion for something you never knew you had. It’ll sneak up on you. You won’t know until the situation is right…and then it’ll hit you, capture you, infect you. And then you’ll wonder like me…is this normal? My answer to that? “Yeah, of course.” Then, just keep on going.

I’m fine. I’ve accepted my wood envy. But, if you see me on ‘Hoarders’ some day, then you’ll know…I have fulfilled my dream.