5,6 Pick Up Sticks Jill Eudaly

5, 6 Pick Up Sticks

Recently we were given the gift of a sunny sixty degree day. My husband and I took advantage of the weather and went into the woods to gather kindling wood. Since this winter has been on the mild side we are not continuously keeping our wood stove going. Instead we make a lot of small fires to take the chill off the house, this uses a lot of kindling wood.

It occurred to me as I picked up sticks that humans have been doing this very chore for thousands of years. Prehistoric hominins are thought to have started building fires 350,000 years ago. In 2016 people are still making fires for heat, light and to cook their food.

On a daily basis people around the world are outside gathering fuel for their fires. The World Health Organization’s website states that 3 billion people will be cooking and heating their homes with an open fire in 2016. The fuels they burn are wood, animal waste, crop waste and coal.


As my husband picked up kindling wood I became distracted by nature and out came my camera. I saw a beautiful sunset and delicate white fungi on a log. I am the silly grasshopper and he is the ant that keeps me alive. Perhaps his sense of solidarity with all those other people around world gatheingr wood on that day was stronger than mine.


Eventually I put my camera away and got back to work. My thoughts then turned to my sister’s dog Maggie. That dog loves to fetch sticks. It’s like the act of chasing that stick is hardwired in her brain. Is there some undercurrent coursing through the air that draws us to twigs, branches and logs?

When I work at the environmental education center I see kids picking up sticks and waving them in the air. They do it without thinking. It happens so often that I’ve come to believe it is part of our subconscious to pick up sticks. I would even go as far as saying that picking up sticks is a ritual of survival. We know the ritual even when there is no need for us to perform it in modern living. (Here in U.S.)

The next time you are out gathering kindling wood or pick up sticks think about all the humans before you, and the ones on that very day, who collect sticks to make fires. We humans are after all so very much alike and connected through our rituals.

by Jill Eudaly

photo by Jill Eudaly



2 thoughts on “5,6 Pick Up Sticks Jill Eudaly

  1. I used to love to gather kindling. It was my Fall ritual. Something about the history of it, the necessity of the everyday preparation made it satisfactory and the crunch of the perfect dried stick as I broke it into manageable pieces. Now, we only have a wood stove in our barn and we have only lit it once. Kindling gathering is off my list and I must admit I miss it. xox

  2. Jill, how true this is! As I drive along the road and see all the branches and twigs that have fallen I think, if I only had a truck I could just gather up this small wood for me to have a nice small camp fire.

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