picking up sticks


In a Christmas pageant in elementary school, I played a poor firewood gatherer.  It was medieval times, and Good King Wenceslas looked out and saw me as I mimed picking up sticks, shivering, and blowing on my hands for warmth in the imaginary cold of the cafeteria that doubled as our auditorium. The good king took pity on me and beckoned to me to come to his castle, out of the cold, where the royals sat around a table loaded for feasting, complete with a plastic pig’s head with an apple stuffed in its mouth.

Part of my costume called for ripped tights. My mom had to take me to Sears and buy a pair of women’s brown pantyhose that I had to strategically tear in random places to mimic my poverty. It was embarrassing. But I made a pretty believable beggar.

Today, dave five of my barefoot challenge, and my first free day, I worked for a friend of mine, raking leaves and gathering fallen winter tree limbs that littered the property we take care of. It’s a part-time job, a way to earn a little extra money. It rained for three hours, my hands were cold, my boots soaked through, my Red Sox hat dripping water from the brim.

My friend’s Boston retriever was my constant companion. In between hauling loads of wet leaves into the woods, I tossed her sticks or an old ripped tennis ball. She never tired. I, however did. She was never cold, jumping into the creek behind the house, the one with chunks of ice still floating on its surface. I was shivering by the time I was done.

In Maine, you have to show up with a lot of money, or else work really hard to make some. I’m happy to have the work, but in some ways I’m still that beggar from elementary school, picking up sticks to survive.


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