Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Illustrate the meaning of "Make Hay While the Sun Shines" (without using the actual phrase or literal example). (03/06/08)
TITLE: Salted Fish and Firewood
By Debbie Roome
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The smudged grey of the city is gone; a stained memory compared to this pristine landscape. Purity unfurls in textures of lakes and mountains and forests of white birch and pine. It’s the perfect place to work on my novel. Isolated, peaceful, rustic.
I have just one neighbour, Old Man Wilson who lives across the lake. I rowed across today to introduce myself. He was working in his vegetable garden; turning over spadefuls of thick loamy soil and dropping seed potatoes into cool hollows. “You should get planting too, young man.” He leaned on his shovel for a moment. “Conditions are perfect right now. These potatoes will store well for the winter.”
I thought of his words as I rowed onto Three Springs, the small settlement where turquoise and sapphire streams merge before mingling with deep navy waters. The supply store has all the basics and besides, my larder is full of tinned goods. I can’t be bothered with gardening.
Old Man Wilson is cutting wood. Has been for days. “You need to do this in early summer.” He told me. “The wood needs several months to dry out.” I watched as he cut log after log, sweating and straining as the chainsaw bit into knots and sawdust filled his eyes. It seems like a lot of work and I have better things to do. Besides, my wood shed is a third full. If I’m careful I’m sure that will last.
Saw the old man out on the lake this morning. The salmon run is in full swing and his boat was piled with slithering fish, silvery with peach blushes along their sides. “Come over and I’ll teach you to salt and dry them.” He shouted. I rowed past his place later and saw them hanging by their tails, flesh slit, mouths draining salty water. I kept rowing and caught a salmon for dinner. I’ll find something else to stockpile for winter.
I’m getting a bit tired of Old Man Wilson. He brought me some home-made jam today; blackberry and raspberry that he’d cooked up himself. “I’ll show you where the thickest patches are.” He offered. “The fruit is at its best and I’m cooking and canning as much as I can.”
I chose to work on my novel which isn’t coming along too well.
Old Man Wilson is nuts. Literally. He’s been foraging in the forest for nuts and came out with two buckets full. I’d rather sit and enjoy the changes of early autumn. Watch the leaves fluttering; carpets of copper and burnished gold.
The nights are getting cool now and the wind has a sharp edge. Old Man Wilson shot a deer last week and is still busy with it; skinning, gutting, preserving. I’ve shot a couple of birds but that’s about it. I can’t be bothered with all that mess.
I’ve started using my firewood and it’s going down quicker than I anticipated. I went looking for more but the forest is soggy and damp. To make things worse, I arrived home to find a bag of russet apples on my porch and a note from you-know-who. “The supply store has barrels of apples at a good price. You’ll need fruit in winter. Best get some.” I burnt the note in the fire.
The first snow of winter is falling. I should really go and get supplies but I want to watch the snow swirling across the mountains. Maybe I’ll get down to some serious writing later in winter.
The lake is frozen but not enough to walk on. If only I’d gone to Three Springs while it was still accessible. My tins are running low and I’m desperate for some decent food.
I’m at Old Man Wilson’s house. He noticed there was no smoke coming from my chimney so trekked across the ice to check on me. I felt like such a fool when I admitted I had no wood and no food. His sheds are stacked with wood, fish and venison; with potatoes, nuts, apples, jam and berries in syrup. I guess I’ll have to humble myself and sit out winter on this side of the lake.
Spring is here. The snow is finally melting and tender buds are poking through the ice. I’m looking forward to going home and planting my first potatoes.
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