What’s The Deal With Charcoal, Anyway?

Charcoal burner 001
The Charcoal Burner

After publishing my office wall blog, I had another look at the Ernest H. Shepard drawing from A.A.Milne’s Winnie the Pooh poetry book “Now We Are Six” and, indeed as I should have known, Christopher Robin has Pooh tightly held in his right arm. They were inseparable.

If you grew up with Winnie the Pooh as I, my three sons and five grandsons, did -not to mention my siblings and their young- you would probably have read the poem about The Charcoal Burner. It is in the volume “Now We Are Six.”

It’s one of the more esoteric (don’t you love that word?) poems, but of course CR is now 6 years old and therefore, quite grown up.

Anyway, CR is peeking at the old charcoal burner man who lives in the Forest. He “sits and thinks of the things they know / He and the Forest, alone together”; Christopher Robin’s Charcoal Burner “has tales to tell” and the next picture has CR and Pooh on a log, listening to the tales.

Haiti is over 7,000 miles away from Christopher Robin’s Forest, but it also makes and uses charcoal. The tale told in Heifer International’s magazine, WORLDARK,  worldark@list.heifer.org, is that charcoal “burns hotter and more slowly than wood. It also produces less smoke and is far easier to transport.” In Haiti they make it by hand “from wood, roots and brush” because there are so few trees. It’s made “under mounds of dirt” and employs many, many people when there isn’t other work to do.charcoal 001

How many of us think of the mechanical process of making charcoal as we load it onto our barbecues? Or as artists that use charcoal to make their drawings? I wonder if Mr Shepard’s drawing above was made in charcoal. That would be appropriate, now wouldn’t it?

I suspect the young Haitian boys are not just onlookers like Christopher Robin, but help “chopping bushes and digging up roots.” I hope the adults tell them tales as they work.



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