Sunday, October 7, 2018
I've been splitting and piling wood as the days cool and shorten. The smell of fresh pitch and sawdust, the "sprong" as a tough chunk of fir splits, the satisfying clunk as it all piles into place -- it's a delicious way to spend a morning, even though it leaves me aching in hands,
back and arms. I am grateful for the long work gloves given to me by my friend, Kevin, as a farewell gift when I left the city for the island. Without them, my arms would be sticky with pitch and prickling with wood splinters. There's nothing quite like the joy of watching the pile grow, knowing that, as my Dad often remarked, it will warm me in many ways--cutting, moving, stacking, unstacking, moving again, building the fire and finally, sitting in front of it. He also used to quote Albert Einstein, who said, "People love chopping wood. In this activity one immediately sees results." If Albert Einstein liked it, my father implied, so could he.
My sister is a real woods woman (she quickly embraced being a "woman with a chainsaw" after an unexpected Christmas gift from her husband) and while she visited this fall we tackled the wood. We tossed and piled, chopped and calculated how to fit everything in. Meanwhile, with the rhythm of wood stacking moving us in a united direction, we talked about everything -- families, friends, getting older, the future, what really mattered in life. As we saw results of our labour grow, we also rebuilt our own connections.
Of course, it's not without discomfort. My finger turned purple after being caught between two big chunks of fir. My clothing has been shedding sawdust for days, even after washing. But it's worth the labour to stack the wood in the fireplace and set it alight, curling up on the carpet in front of it on a pillow, book in hand. The crackle of the flames takes me to another world and warms me through in many ways.
There are times when I am writing that I wish I could just stack the words one on top of another, pile the sentences wherever there was a gap and wear protective gear to save me from the flowing sap and detritus that dribbles out of a paragraph, sticks to my skin and gets into my hair. I have days when I don't see results, when the pile looks the same -- or worse -- than it did when I started in the morning. Those are the days when I wonder why I'm doing this, the days when I want to throw in the writing towel and get outside to chop kindling. Some days that's what I do. But other days I decide I will write like that, stack words and sentences and paragraphs wherever they will fit, start a new pile when the previous one teeters, and, painful though it may be at times, the page begins to fill. And, like Thomas Edison, I will appreciate those results, too, that I know several thousand things that don't work. Writing is not without bruises.