I really enjoy having a wood-burning fireplace; it makes me much more aware of the source of my home heat. I feel a deeper connection to this vital dimension of my life, since I have a little better understanding of where the wood came from. The tree feel in my friend's yard three seasons back.
As I stoke the fire, I am reminded of how the wood was once trees, and how the web of conditions has led to a roaring fire in my hearth. It is very easy to forget how our lives are supported by so many factors beyond our sight. Flicking a switch for heat can be so automated, so habitual, that we forget about the vast hidden network of conditions that make our lives possible.
For instance, when we bought our house this summer, the sellers left us two stacks of firewood. That was very kind of them. I don't know where that wood came from, other than from the obvious answer--trees. But were the trees local? Did the sellers split the wood themselves? Were the trees cut from the small woods behind our house?
I don't know the answers to any of these questions, and yet I burn the wood and it keeps my family warm.
We can't give true thanks unless we know what were are thankful for. If we just assume that paved roads appear for our convenience or that electricity somehow arrives for our use, then we are prone to overlook them.
But they don't just appear. They are part of that dizzying, kaleidoscopic web of interconnections that keep us alive. So I type on a computer that I did not build, using a language I did not create, sitting next to a fire whose wood I did not cut down.
All around, I see my utter reliance on the world around me. How could I ever feel alone? It makes me want to return the favor. How may I help you? Maybe I'll see you at Zen practice tonight.
Best to you all.
Photo: By Ryan Mahle from Sherman Oaks, CA, USA (Flickr.com - image description page) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons