Saturday, April 24, 2010
A hedge-y endeavor
"If the iron is blunt, and one does not whet the edge, then more strength must be exerted; but wisdom helps one to succeed."
Well, that is pretty much the sum total of what the Bible has to say about splitting logs.
In the last couple of weeks, I've had the fence builders out here, totally rebuilding my pasture fences. My long-eared equines (mostly my mule) have taken a toll on my woven wire fence. I opted for a taller fence, and seven strands of barbed wire. The other flaw in the previous fence was that the previous builder put the staples and clips on the OUTSIDE. Equines simply lean against the fence and pop the staples and the clips bend open. It doesn't take much for determined long-eared equines and their belief that the grass really IS greener on the other side of the fence, to wreck one.
One of the decisions I made was to put hedge posts in for my corner posts. Hedge is one of the densest, sturdiest, most resistant to rot and decay woods available in this part of the world. It's even better than many of the treated posts available. The sidelight has been there are little "leftovers" of the posts given to me so I can burn them in my chiminea later on. Seeing as how hedge is also one of the highest BTU delivering woods out there, this is a bonus.
There's only one problem--some of them are too big for my chiminea. I had to break out my axe, my splitting maul, and my wedge, and revisit something that used to be a real pain in my life--but this time, as a tourist, as a pastime.
Let me share a little history. I grew up with a wood stove being the major source of heat in the house where I lived the bulk of my junior high/high school years. I grew to hate the wood stove and everything associated with it. I hated being dragged along to cut and split wood. I hated stacking wood, hauling wood in the house, and lugging out the ashes. I hated how the house was cold in the early mornings, I hated how I often had to get dressed in front of the wood stove in order not to freeze, and I hated how it seemed the entire set of activities of daily living revolved around feeding and maintaining that wood stove every winter. I hated how wood heat dried my nose out, I hated how all my clothes seemed to have a smoky smell to them, and I hated how we had a propane furnace and never used it, being told we couldn't afford it.
I vowed never to have wood heat in the house, and I have kept that promise.
Yet I love sitting outside by my chiminea fire. Go figure.
Most of the wood I use in my chiminea has been cut by someone else. But I kept all my woodcutting tools because once in a while I still have to deal with an oversized log.
As I looked at the little pile of hedge logs that was growing by my driveway, I made a radical decision--I would use splitting them as a form of meditation. I would simply split them and see what popped in my head as a result.
I pondered the first log. Suddenly it dawned on me that I was 30+ years older than when I used to do this all the time. I used to have well-tuned muscles for this task. I was younger, slenderer, better muscled, and more flexible. What am I doing? I could throw out my back or miss and cut the end of my foot off. Out of all the types of wood I could have taken on, I took on the densest, hardest wood in NE Missouri. Am I NUTS?
Just the same, I closed my eyes, took a deep breath, opened my eyes, reared back and let fly with the axe. It landed pretty much where I intended it to go, scoring the log. I took a few more whacks with the axe, then grabbed the splitting maul and started in with it. Pretty soon, after a few swings, a big chunk of that log came flying off with a pop, and I felt the rush of feeling the maul peel right through 18 inches of solid wood.
I wish I could have seen my own grin.
Over the next half hour, things came back to me I did not even realize were buried in my memory banks. Layers of clothing started to peel off as I felt myself sweat. My hands found the right spots on the handle. I automatically used already split pieces to prop up the piece I was working on. Before you know it, I had a little pile of split logs, just the right size. Realizing one little pile was enough, I quit, and got a soda and sat down to think about what had just happened. I was tired, but not sore. I wasn't sore the next morning, either--I'd done it about right.
But as I sat and drank my soda outside in my "post-splitting" phase of the exercise, I realized just how GOOD it all felt. Something I used to hate to do became pleasurable. I felt very physically and spiritually "connected". I felt empowered. I found myself saying, "God, I can't believe I'm telling you this, but I'm glad I had learned how to do that, all those many years ago."
I'm sure God laughed.
It brought me to some other interesting spiritual awakenings. Nothing that happens in our lives is for naught. It made me realize that things we hated, things that hurt us, things we discarded as "no use to us," can eventually come to good. Mistakes aren't mistakes, and things we came to regret only remain regrets if we choose to leave them there. Left the size they are, they are useless--but if we dare to take them apart, no matter how hard they are, they can come apart through the power of things we forgot we have or never knew we possessed--in other words, with God's help. Most importantly, we can turn loathing into gratitude. We can take what seemed inert, dead, and useless, and turn it into heat, light, and warmth.
That in itself, is a form of resurrection, isn't it?