Thursday, September 4, 2008

What Chopping Wood Has Taught Me About Life

Readers of my blog Koty & Kinseys’s Excellent Adventures are already aware I love to work in the woods with my chainsaws and chop wood. I recently wrote a piece on that very subject Extreme Weather & The Timber Terminator. In addition to the sheer joy the physical activity brings I have also learned an important life lesson from this, some would call, menial task.

First let me say I believe now, and forever will, that self-knowledge is the most important knowledge you will ever acquire. All the schools and degrees in the world will not garner you wisdom. Wisdom, I believe, comes from self-knowledge. Self-knowledge generally comes from introspection and introspection is most successfully achieved in a singular state.

I have been particularly fortunate in that I live alone with just my dog Koty Bear in the most beautiful place on the planet, smack dab in the Kootenai National Forest, Montana. I’ve lived here in the forest for six years and they have been the best six years of my life. But, I digress. The point is, I have had a unique opportunity for introspection. I like to think I have put it to good use.

When I lived in “the other world”, which is what I call everything outside of my home territory, I was the typical Type A personality. Along with that type comes a penchant for control. And, believe me I was true to my type. I still struggle with it and every time I chop wood I am reminded how important it is to “let go”.

When addressing a block of wood one’s first instinct is to raise that maul and really take a whack at it forcing the head down on the block with all your might. That would be the wrong thing to do. The fact is the easiest way to split wood requires the least amount of effort. What you do is let the maul do the work for you and you do that by, quite literally, letting go.

Here’s how it works. You raise the maul back over your head and as you reverse the motion and start down toward the block you let your hands slide to the end of the handle and let the momentum of the maul carry itself to the block. All you do is follow along, go with the flow so to speak. The maul cuts through the block like a knife through butter. Pop!

Absent a teacher it took me a lot of whacking to figure this out. And, each time I chop, I have to get reacquainted with the technique because for all my trying I still have those control issues at my core. I must focus and be present in my work to get it right. But, most importantly, I must remember to “let go”.

What I have learned about chopping wood has taught me something about life. And, every time I chop it reminds me to stop trying so hard. It reminds me that all I have to do is do raise up that maul. The splitting of the wood will be take care of itself. Letting go is not inertia. It is, in fact, one of the most powerful things one can do.

©Kinsey Barnard