Afternoon Thoughts While Splitting Firewood

Sometimes I just sit and wonder

John Egelkrout

--

Photo by author

There is an old saying that Zen isn’t meditating while you do the laundry. Zen is doing the laundry. It is the common, mundane activities we do in our daily lives that keep us grounded. Laundry is one of them. Cleaning the bathroom is another. If you want to experience reality, do the dishes.

For me, it’s splitting firewood.

That is what is on my mind as I make my way out to the woodpile. My small tractor, my faithful steed, pulls the wagon that will contain the wood I split. As I drive down the wagon-rutted trail, “Old Town Road” plays in my head. “I’m gonna take my horse to the old town road. I’m gonna riiiiiiiiiide till can’t no more.” It’s a twisted kind of humor that makes me enjoy something like that.

When I arrive at my woodpile, I see about ten cords of wood I have already cut into 16-inch lengths last spring. Most people would rent a hydraulic log splitter to do this kind of work, especially at my age. But I’m in no hurry. It’s not the wood, per se, so much as the experience of being here that is important to me.

Situated next to the wood, I have a larger chunk that I use as a chopping block. I select a piece of wood to be split, set it on the chopping block, and take hold of my splitting maul. A splitting maul looks something like an ax, only heavier and not as sharp. The weight of the maul head is supposed to split the wood along the grain. If you’re lucky, the wood splits clean on the first blow.

I raise the maul straight up in front of me and over my head and then thrust it downward. It smacks the piece dead center and cleaves it sweetly into two perfect pieces. I set the maul down, pick up each piece, and set them in the wagon. Then I select another piece of wood to split, place it on the chopping block, and repeat. I will do this until my wagon is filled.

In between splitting each piece, I take a moment to look around the farm. This time of year the leaves are off the trees, making the surrounding landscape appear stark. There is beauty in it if you know what to look for and can appreciate it. It’s what Robert Frost wrote about in his poem
November.”

--

--

John Egelkrout

I am a sanity-curious former teacher who works a small organic farm with my wife. I write about politics, social issues, memoirs, and a variety of other topics.