Monday, November 28, 2005

The Healing Power of Splitting Wood

My grandfather logged as a side job of sorts but I didn't know much about it when I was a kid. My mom always told me that his father was in a wheelchair with debilitating arthritis and Grandpa kept logging and splitting wood as a way to keep the arthritis in his back at bay so that the same thing wouldn't happen to him.

When I started camping with Andy, he would split wood for the campfire and he handed me the splitter one time and said to give it a try. I was scared but got some easy pieces so that I didn't have to swing much as I was afraid of missing and splitting my shin bone off the rest of my leg.

Many years later, I am now a more seasoned (pun intended) splitter of wood and let me tell you, I understand why Andy's first inclination when he's mad is to go to the log pile and wail on some wood. I've gained the confidence to swing the splitter over my head and bring it down with all of my momentum and I haven't recently met a (reasonable) log I couldn't split.

People ask why we aren't filling our fireplace with a thermostatically-controlled natural gas stove or even a pellet stove. Our first answer is that we like the crackling sound and smoky smell of a "real" fire but we have to admit that we also like - love, really - the natural act of preparing the wood and building the fire.

There's something about feeling all of your energy flow up through your body, out your hands, into the sledge and down into the log that appears impenetrable but which splits into pieces like a toothpick when you pound it. Maybe it's just the endorphins that are released. Maybe it's just that I feel powerful. Maybe it's the connection I have to days gone by when people had to split wood and use fire for all of their heating and cooking.

I'm beginning to wonder if Grandpa had more in mind by keeping up with his logging than just keeping his back limber. I don't recall seeing him get angry with Grandma but I'm sure he did (and his 3 daughters) and maybe he just needed to be by himself and whack some logs to keep his sanity.

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