9/52 Gentle Adaptations: "Birches" by Bill Morrissey


Birches, by Bill Morrissey

They sat at each end of the couch, watched as the fire burned down,
So quiet on this winter's night, not a house light on for miles around.
Then he said, "I think I'll fill the stove. It's getting time for bed."
She looked up, "I think I'll have some wine. how 'bout you?" She asked and he declined.

"Warren," she said, "maybe just for tonight,
Let's fill the stove with birches and watch as the fire burns bright.
How long has it been? I know it's quite a while.
Pour yourself half a glass. Stay with me a little while."

And Warren, he shook his head, as if she'd made some kind of joke.
"Birches on a winter night? No, we'll fill the stove with oak.
Oak will burn as long and hot as a July afternoon,
And birch will burn itself out by the rising of the moon.

"And you hate a cold house, same as me. Am I right or not?"
"All right, all right, that's true," she said. "It was just a thought,
'Cause," she said, "Warren, you do look tired. Maybe you should go up to bed.
I'll look after the fire tonight." "Oak," he told her. "Oak," she said.

She listened to his footsteps as he climbed up the stairs,
And she pulled a sweater on her, set her wineglass on a chair.
She walked down cellar to the wood box -- it was as cold as an ice chest --
And climbed back up with four logs, each as white as a wedding dress.

And she filled the stove and poured the wine and then she sat down on the floor.
She curled her legs beneath her as the fire sprang to life once more.
And it filled the room with a hungry light and it cracked as it drew air,
And the shadows danced a jittery waltz like no one else was there.

And she stood up in the heat. She twirled around the room.
And the shadows they saw nothing but a young girl on her honeymoon.
And she knew the time it would be short; the fire would start to fade.
She thought of heat. She thought of time. She called it an even trade.


Hey baby,

Our first little house had that brick fireplace in our drafty bedroom. We could've found a newer house in better shape, but this old house had trees... and a brick fireplace where we could burn real logs. That sold us. We could barely afford a house—new or old. We were so poor. But we loved that little house and our little family. And we loved each other. We had been married seven years then. I'm writing this 13 years later and we still love each other. We live in a newer house, though far from new, and we were barely were able to afford this one. The carpet is worn, the shingles need replacing, and we hope each year that the furnace will last the winter. Things are still tight but we get by. This house also has trees... and has a wood-burning fireplace, which was also one of its selling points. There's just something simple and romantic about a wood-burning fire, holding you by my side on the couch in the quiet of the evening after the kids have gone to bed. This song reminded me of that and of the give and take in our relationship.

Love, J


My brother, a deep and soulful man, shared the above song with me. He said, "Here’s a nice song for the winter nights ahead, for living life, and the gentle adaptations of spouses. Leah and I have listened to him since we started dating, and I vividly recall when we first heard Birches; we were sitting quietly by a fire, simply listening to the radio and sipping wine."

I love that line "the gentle adaptations of spouses." Kara "confessed" to me that she sometimes just says, "Okay" to pacify me and then just does her own thing. She's not being deceitful, just strategic. Not everything needs to be an issue. Not everything needs to be addressed. Sometimes it's just better to get along and have a nice time with each other. Some things don't matter, like whether it's oak or birch. Some things are just preference. However, sometimes in relationships we confuse one's preference with being "THE right and only way."

This song also highlights some common (though by no means absolute) male/female differences. Warren argued the merits of oak for its sheerly practical value. She chose the birch for the look, aesthetic, experience and feel of it. Both have value, and couples in these type of GREAT Relationships, still value and respect those differences, even when they disagree with them.