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Budbill: The December House

(Host) While contemplating the likely effects of climate change and global warming, commentator David Budbill thinks about what it means to have an open winter - and a house with a woodstove.

(Budbill) Too many days lately, all its done is rain and sleet. A wintry mix the weatherman calls it.

It's December and I can't help but wonder - where did the snows of yesteryear go? I can remember humongous Thanksgiving Day snows, and that was it for seeing the ground until May. Where have all those snowy winters gone? Is this just some cycle we're going through or is it the dreaded global warming, climate change, everybody's talking about?

It's nearly the end of the year and the temperature is finally beginning to sink. Around our house, the ground is frozen hard, but there's still no snow. Will it ever come?

Now it's cold enough to be almost unbearable, even though in a month 20 below won't seem that cold, but just now 20 above seems painful, because our blood isn't thick yet. When there's no snow on the ground, there's no blanket to insulate everything, to keep it, and us, warm.

Winters with little or no snow are mean and ugly, hard to deal with because of all that dreaded ice, ice, ice. Yet this is when the meaning of house begins to emerge again. All summer it's been hiding somewhere, keeping it's meaning from us.

Oh, we eat in the house and sleep in the house, but the house really isn't that meaningful in the summer. It's warm outside in the summer. The only reason for the house is to keep the bugs out; a tent would do just as well. But now, now that we've come to the end of the year, the house over the past month or so has become meaningful again.

I think about those song lyrics: Oh, the weather outside is frightful.

But here inside by the stove it's delightful. A house with a woodstove is a place to hide from the cold outside, a place where it's warm.

Now inside, next to the woodstove, when it's 25 outside, it's 75 next to the stove. Back up to it, hands behind your back, palms out, the warmth of the woodstove working its way into your body. Toast the back of your legs, your butt, turn around and warm the other side. This is heaven.

There's nothing more satisfying - and as the song says, delightful - than a house heated by a woodstove at the end of the year. Nothing can make you feel more secure, even in these insecure times.

Oh! the meaning of a house with a woodstove, here at the end of the year.

Hear Neal Charnoff's recent interview with David Budbill.

David Budbill is a poet - his poems appear on NPR's The Writers' Almanac frequently - and a playwright - his most recent play is A SONG FOR MY FATHER.
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