Friday, November 13, 2015

On the List of Things I Like

Some of the things people like are curious to me. They are as different as we are—indeed they are a part of our individuality. "Things I like" is a subject we all enjoy discussing! I was at a restaurant a couple of weeks ago and a young couple at the table next to mine were talking rather loudly so that I could hear their conversation (I don't usually eavesdrop!). They must have been on a first date, because all they talked about was stuff they liked. Funny.

I like cutting firewood.

I can't really figure out why! It's hard, it makes you stink like chainsaw smoke and sawdust, it's kind of dangerous, it takes a lot of time, and I'm sore for two or three days afterward! Maybe it's some weird, Freudian, childhood psychology thing. I've been cutting wood since I was a kid. My family always had a fireplace and heated our home with wood. My dad worked my tail off cutting, splitting, and stacking wood. It wasn't always fun then, but I loved being with him and the men with which we worked. Manly stuff: loud chainsaws, big trees falling, cool tools (axes, wedges, mauls, and trucks), and lots of opportunities to prove one's strength made it strangely enjoyable. He would teach me how to recognize different types of trees and how to work on saws and how to "read" the logs and use proper techniques in order to split them with less difficulty. There were also many opportunities for my dad to compliment my strength and hard work (which he did more often than I deserved), which is important for a boy's confidence.

I must confess: there were times that I despised cutting wood. Like the time when I was 14 when my dad had me cut and carry lots of big oak logs up the steep ridge on which we log at a the heat of the myself. I remember crying at one point from frustration and exhaustion when the log I was wrestling up the hill got away from me and rolled 50 yards straight down.

I definitely love the end result. There's nothing more comforting and romantic than a fire on a cold day. I love the smell, the crackle and hiss of the burning wood, the flickering glow of the flames, and the direct heat. Nothing chases cold away like that. On some dark winter nights I find myself fighting to stay awake in order to enjoy the fire a little longer.
A beautiful day for cutting wood. This is a trailer load of oak logs.
The Wagoneer is a workhorse! The Jeep 4wd and 360 V8 were 
made for this!

But maybe it's the peace I find while focusing on the task of cutting wood that's the best thing of all. My job requires a lot of meeting, sitting, emailing, reading & studying, making decisions, and planning. I do very little physical work--and I miss it. Don't misunderstand. I LOVE my job. But it's emotionally and intellectually taxing. Sometimes it's just downright draining. I'm an extravert and love people, but I find that the older I get the more I appreciate time alone. Only, often when I'm alone I get sucked into doing emails and phone calls and studying.

But I like getting outside in the woods. Cutting wood occupies my mind and my body. I find I'm not thinking about people's problems and the world's troubles and leadership strategy or sermon series. I'm thinking about my Stihl chainsaw, that tree, the perfect cut, split, and stack. How can I get as much wood on the trailer as possible without losing any on the journey or blowing a tire. There's a real sense of accomplishment when I finally get that wood stacked under my deck. I'm ready for winter. I've been a provider. Now to enjoy.

I'm always on the hunt for wood. Not just any wood—I'm a bit of a firewood snob. I prefer oak, hickory, and beech. Walnut, ash, cherry, and hard maple are ok, too. But I will not waste time and effort on soft maple, sweet gum, poplar, sycamore, locust (burns great and long, but stinks), birch, bradford pear (holds too much water), elm, hackberry, boxelder, pine (and other evergreens). Finding a big oak tree that has fallen and getting permission to take the wood is like hitting a little jackpot for me!

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