“Attic Salt” column for Jan. 13, 2013

My son tells me we’re clearing land to make it park like.

He’s thinning a small woods on the northern end of Toledo Bend Reservoir because it’s the kind of thing he does to relax.

To stay warm, I’m helping him.

A strong wind out of the north hit us as we left the house to drive to the land. The wind has crossed the Great Plains and cut south at Shreveport to reach us in Sabine Parish.

The night time low was in the 20s. The temperature has risen into the 30s, but the wind is making the chill feel like the inside of a meat locker open to a hurricane.

The wind chill might be in the teens. I can feel the cold wind through a parka over a sweater.

Where we are clearing land is in a shallow depression on terrain sloping to the lake. We are protected from the wind by a small rise whose height is exaggerated by thick woods on top.

We are making these woods less thick which is aesthetically pleasing but thinning our windshield at the same time.

The difference in the cold between lakeside and being sheltered in the woods is like boarding an airplane in Wisconsin in January to step off a few hours later in Miami.

I left a warm house where I’d been under covers reading biographies of Lincoln and Jefferson. I’d have been content to stay there until spring which is how long it will take me to read these two tomes.

I’m allergic to chain saws, so I worked at some distance behind my son. He powered through trees standing and ones on the ground. I worked with a hand saw, sawing a while and, then, picking up what my son and I had cut.

We’d managed to start a small fire from sticks and saplings soaked by rain. A thin curl of smoke rose inside a pile of cut brush before a pretty orange flame blossomed, growing bright against dark surrounding woods overreached by blue sky.

Even sheltered from the wind, we get cold working away from the fire. When we haul what we’ve cut to the blaze we linger to let the heat warm our faces and hands.

Toasting at the fire in this park we’re making, a couple of favorite fire sayings come to mind. “Wood warms you twice” is the observation that wood warms you the first time when you cut it and the second time when you burn it.

Standing in the wet woods on what the fire department in Many calls a good day for burning, the other saying runs through my head like an electronic sign in front of a bank.

“Fire is a wonderful servant but a terrible master.”

When we arrive at the fire at the same time, my son and I talk. It’s a conversation of no weight, but the words feel good as they leave the warm places of their birth to hit the air as vapor that quickly disperses.

A day or two later, the park’s designer emails me a panoramic photo of the cleared woods. It’s a good picture, but you can’t feel the cold or the heat or hear the workers at work.

I made it my PC’s wallpaper, anyway, so that I can visit the little park when I feel like it.