Barefoot And Intrepid

I tread softly around the woodpile. Even if the pile is only knee high. Woodpiles attract ghosts, in my experience. It’s the split wood. Whispers are released when wood is split or hewn. Stacked together there are a lot of conversations going on in a woodpile.

If you’re a ghost passing through this area a woodpile is a place of orientation. Woodpiles are checkpoints. Check-ins, maybe? My neighbors have one. The parsonage next to the church has one. The corner store has one. The BBQ shop has one. Several empty homes have them; dwellers took the furniture but left the firewood behind. You can stop in all these places and hear the messages lifting out of the wood. You can acquaint with other ghosts lingering near the pile.

It’s the most natural magic. The easy kind. Trees absorb what we say and do in their presence. They witness. They know all the things. When the wood splits the intelligence stored within can be heard. Houses are built of conversations and interactions. Barns. Sheds. Pet shelters. Cabinets. Dressers. All places where secrets become public information. It’s easier to hear it all if you’re a ghost. You don’t have to work so hard to suspend disbelief when you’re a ghost.

It’s best while the wood is still wild. Before it gets sanded or sealed or painted or covered by plaster and shingles. The wildness of woodpiles are especially attractive. But unfinished privacy fences are also quite conducive to congregation. I noticed this today while running at daybreak. Chuckles along the new fence folks erected around their new pool. Might be keeping people out but it’s sure bringing in the ghosts from the old military road.

The fastest way to find out what happened in a house is to tear it down and listen to the splintered wood. If you want to find out what’s been going on in the world, pick up some driftwood. Or just listen to the ghosts who come by to check it out themselves. They hear better than most of us. Haunting is really just listening. And chatting. We are their celebrity gossip.

Early in the morning if I want to go cut some roses I tiptoe past the woodpile. I don’t want to startle or scare away the ghosts. Some of the wood came from a storm-damaged tree at the top of the hill. The homeowner can see our fires from up there. He offered us all the wood we could carry. Some of the wood came from a friend who drove by and dumped a load in my driveway. Some we bought last time we went camping. Some comes from trimming our own trees. We’ve always got a pile of something out there. So we’ve always got ghosts out there.

If I walked into a meeting of people I’d be quiet. I’d enter quietly. Sit down and listen. Meetings of ghosts command the same respect. I’d rather not interrupt. I’m interested in their conversations and thus far they don’t seem to mind my eavesdropping. Trees do not lie. Movies do. Ghosts are only scary if you’re mean to them. Like geese. Regulars get used to you once they figure out you bring no harm. They won’t clam up when you come near or run past them by the dawn’s early light.

When I took the photo shown above there were only two ghosts hanging out. We’d just had a thunderstorm. I could see an ornamental pot brimming with rainwater from my kitchen window. I was on my way to dump it for mosquito control. I passed the woodpile, barefoot and intrepid. One ghost sat perched on the stack, the other leaned casually against the brick. I heard the words cycle and boyfriend and reasonable. But the drips from the overhanging roof were fat, cold, and pelting so I didn’t stay long. I can always catch up in fairer weather. I know where to find them.

— Mercy

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