With rain falling again today I keep a fire burning all day into the night.  I love the crackling and the smell of wood smoke.  I did the same when my three year old grandson was here this week.  He was entranced with the sounds the wood makes as it burns.  It’s as though the crackles and loud bursts are last words of what life was like as a tree.  That thought leads him and me to a discussion of life and death, something a three year old seems entranced with, and so I read him The Giving Tree, a book I love though I know it is controversial.  Do we just give and give?  Well, certainly that’s what a tree does.

This rain and the burning of a wood fire returns me to the past and words of Ursula LeGuin.

She died in 2018 at the age of 88 so these words are from 2014 when she was interviewed by Heather Davis.

Ursula LeGuin: “I lived when simply waiting was a large part of ordinary life: when we waited, gathered around a crackling radio, to hear the infinitely far-away voice of the king of England… I live now when we fuss if our computer can’t bring us everything we want instantly. We deny time.

We don’t want to do anything with it, we want to erase it, deny that it passes. What is time in cyberspace? And if you deny time you deny space. After all, it’s a continuum—which separates us.

So we talk on a cell phone to people in Indiana while jogging on the beach without seeing the beach, and gather on social media into huge separation-denying disembodied groups while ignoring the people around us.

I find this virtual existence weird, and as a way of life, absurd. This could be because I am eighty-four years old. It could also be because it is weird, an absurd way to live.”

Of course I am typing this and communicating in a modern way and it’s important at times to breathe in the essence of wood smoke as it crackles and speaks.

Remains of the sawmill built in 1830 on Cascade Creek in Mill Valley to provide lumber for building in San Francisco and Marin.


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