• Symen A. Brouwers

A Remarkable Bag of Wood

Updated: May 19, 2019

I love how the story of this remarkable bag of wood came together. It is special hardwood, all the way from Namibia – great for building a wood fire. For me, the wood reminds me of care and connection, not of technology and artifice, but of people sitting together. Let me tell you why.

In April I was on mission in Namibia and during the trip I was joined by a colleague from the Namibia country office. Aune is her name. It was an exciting time, talking with children with disabilities, teachers, and parents about everyday life with disabilities in a faraway difficult to access region. Every night, she and I had dinner together, talking about family, travel, and our ideas and experiences of the day.

A night in the second week is where the story of the remarkable bag of hardwood starts. Over dinner that evening, in the middle of Damaraland, I remarked on the beautiful log fire burning at the lodge, tended to with love by the hotel staff, smelling absolutely wonderful. Hearing me, Aune asks: “Would you like a bag of that wood?” I am taken aback, thinking to myself I need to fly home and a bag of wood will not exactly fit into my luggage. Based on my reaction, Aune smiles and says: “No, it will be fine”, and asks again if I would like a bag. I hesitantly accept: “Yes, I would love to”, still wondering how on earth I will be able to travel with a bag of wood.

With great excitement Aune calls her husband. He was on their farm, also north in Namibia, and they get their own firewood from there – could he perhaps bring a bag of the hardwood for me to Windhoek? She than arranged with her cousin who owns a trucking company to collect the wood from their home to drop it off for me in South Africa when he passes through. With one call all was arranged. I sat there in disbelief, thinking whether this wood will really reach me, but also filled with excitement and hope.

Back in South Africa, going through my everyday engagements I receive a message from Aune: “Hi Symen, my cousin is on his way to SA, where can he drop off your wood?” And I stood there in awe. I met the cousin outside Magaliesburg at the Vlakdrif truckstop. I remember his truck totally empty, except for one bag of Namibian hardwood tied to the floorboards of the truck with a large binder. Together he and I carried it to my car. “Very nice wood”, he says. I agree, thinking to myself how this is all still so unreal, but feeling blessed and grateful.

Now nearly a month after that dinner up north in Namibia, I sit next to the Namibian firewood burning at my South African home, thinking to myself how special this story of the remarkable wood is. Special in that there are good intentions in life, people making selfless effort for others, giving care and attention. I realize again during this remarkable everyday how blessed I am to receive such a remarkable bag of wood almost from the edge of the world, well… at least the borderlands of the world known to me. So remarkable is the warmth and stewardship that the bag of wood brought into my home. Thank you Aune.

Pablo Neruda:

An Ode to the Smell of Wood

Like a hand from the dark house came the intense aroma of firewood in the pile.

The aroma was visible as if the tree were alive. As if it still breathed.

I walked into the house surrounded by that balsam-flavored darkness.

Outside the points in the sky sparkled like magnetic stones and the smell of the wood touched my heart like some fingers, like jasmine, like certain memories.


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