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Log rolling

Back in '73 -- long before any contemporary energy crisis crested -- I experimented with a new kind of logrolling after reading how-to in several current magazines. They described a method of salvaging newspapers (since become familiar to many others) which helped both the ecology and shrunken incomes in one swoop. The process was simple enough. You soaked all your old papers (including junk mail) in a large tub. Then you rolled the soggy masses into tight tubes. When completely dry they made excellent logs to supplement real ones, burning long enough to afford hours of pleasurable heat.

Having not only a surfeit of newspapers but a fireplace going begging, I was pleased to discover one more way to save. As I knelt on a dry stack on the basement floor rolling my soggy papers, I couldn't help glancing over the contents of the various flopping wet-wash being manipulated. The job took longer than anticipated, so I had plenty of time to observe the subject matter -- which occupation suggested certain rewards.

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I was reassured by some of those months-old pronouncements -- for one thing the world still spun steadily on its axis! Catastrophes approached daily, but like those proverbial dark clouds on the horizon, they passed over. Or like puffballs in the meadow they disintegrated into a dusty mist. The air usually cleared. Life went on. I was reminded that there's no point in worrying, that many of our local and national crises have, when frankly faced, little power of real destruction. Emerson said it most succinctly: ''Some of your hurts you have cured,/And the sharpest you still have survived,/But what torments of grief you endured/From evils which never arrived!''

With my own load, plus the contributions of friends, the supply of newspapers seems inexhaustible. I glance over periodicals from Hartford, Litchfield, Waterbury, Boston, Providence, New York, and roll them back to back. Mountains of stories pass in swift review, peaks of philosophy, valleys of false despair. How many trees are felled to deliver this quanitity of pulp, to contain this promised warmth and second-light. I muse on. . . .

A Vermont throwaway recaptures the beauty of a weekend last fall. A national tabloid. How many lives, inspirations, artistic endeavors, sales pitches are made and shattered herein? Heroic names from the worlds of sport, entertainment, church, and state strut across this paper stage. Threats of war, terrible tragedies, misunderstandings between governments -- UFO sightings, astronomical deficits -- all slide under. Good and bad happenings from the four corners of the world that provide N-E-W-S. Classified ads, poignant personals. Morals and amorality. Recipes, family features, editorials, inanities, saving humor. Holy wars and double standards, minority problems, pursuits of status. And always, always, congressionalm logrolling.

News is man-bites-dog. News is human frailty. News, hidden on back pages, is small kindnesses and unexpected delights. News is the gadfly Hope, Peace-in-our-time, the flame - tenuous as tongues, pledged to leap from my paper logs, blatant supplements, gift catalogs, political flyers, beacon of health-foods' fountain of youth, all press in to compact bulk as I roll. Stacked so that air can circulate through them they wait, just twenty-six letters of the alphabet making up this print-universe. Jumbled, shifted, they spell out life.

Later, as my paper logs burn, I meditate anew. . . . That paper, once wood, going to ash, reduced to indestructible elements, is never wasted. The ash will fertilize roses, stimulate fresh ideas. Dreams flare up but, like the perennial phoenix, life rises from these ashes. . . .

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