Original Fuel

If you live in a cold place, you need fuel to heat your home in the winter. For most of us, maintaining a comfortable temperature of 68 degrees Fahrenheit or so involves pressing a button. This has always been a depressing experience for me as an environmentalist. I spend my days contemplating climate change, then engage in the disconnected experience of invoking fossil fuels by depressing an up arrow with my index fingertip.

This year is the first where instead of natural gas and coal, wood plays a predominant role in heating my home. We heat half of our living space with a wood-burning stove and warm our bedroom with a pellet stove.

Rather than push a button, we gather firewood. Instead of programming a thermostat, we haul bags of pellets from our front porch and dump them into a feeder. Wood, the original fuel, makes the ingredients for winter warmth tangible. Yet I also know that burning wood can also pollute, spewing smoke and particulate matter into the cold air, where it becomes trapped beneath a layer of heat. The problem is not just the fuel source, but how many people require it and the uncanny level of indoor warmth we have come to expect.

In the “Original Fuel,” I explore the experience of heating a home with wood through photographs and writing that convey the process, tactile textures, and mood involved.

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