The time in the semester has come for all MCS students to begin using the much-awaited wood stoves. This past week here in Maine has been extremely chilly, the temperature inside some of the cabins feeling cooler than the outside air. After about three days of waking up in a state of utter frigidness, a few of us felt tempted to wear our winter jackets and mittens to bed. Rolling out from under the covers had become a nearly impossible feat of strength. So, we impatiently whined to the staff to allow us the use of the stoves.
This Tuesday morning, after breakfast, our cabin parents showed us the process. We were showed an area around each stove, marked off in a large square, in which nothing should be on the ground. We learned where to obtain kindling and firewood, and were taught how to build up a successful and effective fire. Each stove has various knobs that can be adjusted to let oxygen into the stove, as well as handles to open and close various parts of the stove and chimney. Since these satisfying fires tend to dry the cabins out, tins full of water are placed on top of the stoves in order to act as humidifiers. (We can even put orange peels, tea bags, and the like into these tins of water to produce nice scents.)
Yet, all of this is easier said than done. Already, after only two nights of stove usage, some of us have found that keeping a good fire going is a challenge. In addition, we may go to sleep warm, but that in no way implies that we wake up in the same manner. But no, unless someone wakes up at 4:00 am each morning to feed the fires, we continue to roll out of bed in the same impossible manner as before. Not to mention, we are still working on regulating the amount of heat produced. It is a difficult task to strike the right balance between sauna and freezer. Perhaps worst of all is the gnawing fear that an ember or piece of live ash will fly from the doorway of the stove and onto the floor, thus causing the entire cabin to burn to the ground.
However, I myself think it ridiculous that already (after only two nights) I can think of so many things to complain about, when really the wood stoves are perhaps the most convenient things we could possibly have in our cabins. Regarding the stoves, I believe a staff member described them as “extra members of the cabin.” And, in reality, they absolutely are. They have a solid presence in the cabins, need to be cared for, and don’t enjoy it when fellow can members’ personal belongings migrate into their personal space. So, I am really thinking these wood stoves will become our best friends in the below – freezing winter nights that are fast approaching. Not to mention, that burning wood smell is amazing…
-Samantha Leahy, Chestnut Hill, MA