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I am so happy.

Autumn is in the air, the temperature is finally coming down, leaves are beginning to turn bright yellows and reds...and Wendy is already making our early morning fires in the woodstove. Mmmmmm.

Just a few days ago we received a photograph from Oregon of our oldest granddaughter, Livi. She's carrying a huge piece of pine to her family's already-growing woodpile. Livi is only 5 years old and looks like she's already stronger than her old grandpa.

That's actually not such a huge deal, but still -- she's only 5 years old!

Last week, Efren, our wood man of nearly 20 years, dropped off two cords of beautiful alligator juniper in the driveway. He'll bring us a load of oak next week that will keep us warm, in many ways, till late May.

LIvi and I (and our hardworking support teams) have a lot more to do. There's endless unloading, splitting, stacking and then more splitting and then more stacking. At our mountain home in Flagstaff, we'll be doing wood-related chores nearly every day for the next nine months.

So why am I so happy?

My dad used to tell us stories about how he and his three brothers would run after the coal delivery trucks through the streets of Brooklyn to pick up loose pieces that fell off. His family was poor and each chunk they brought home helped keep them warm. That was Dad's earliest version of chopping wood. It was survival back then.

Thirty years later, Mom and Dad moved our family to Pleasantville, thirty miles north of the city. Our home was completely surrounded by trees. Dad had worked his way through dental school, served in the army during WWII and was now a successful orthodontist.

But where was Dad the absolute happiest?

In our backyard woods, cutting down dead trees and piling up the pieces for our fireplace. it wasn't survival anymore, and there were times I would catch him weeping in gratitude, hardly believing how much life had changed since his childhood days.

My last year in college, I lived in a cabin by the Grass River near the Canadian border. That was the first time wood was the primary heat source for my home.

My love affair with woodstoves was kindled.

Nearly all my 48 years in Arizona have been blessed with woodstoves. Most of those years friends would take pickup trucks to the forests in the fall and fill them with oak, juniper, pine or aspen. Each one serves its unique purpose in our esoteric fire-making lives.

Today, all three of our children follow the tradition and warm their homes with wood. This method goes back to the beginning of humankind. That must be part of the inherent joy, as we sit around our fires admiring the dancing, warming flames.

I am so happy...and the heat goes on!

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