Some things are good for our souls, some for our bodies, some for both. This is our annual wood-splitting weekend, where we tend soul and body together. Bill rented a wood splitter (beats the sledge and wedge he used to use!), and hauled it to the spot where he's been dumping the wood he's cut from the dead-and-down trees in our one-acre woodlot. It's a team effort: he loads the splitter, I operate it, we load the truck with the split wood, and stack it, some on the porch, some in the shed, some (a down-payment on next year's fires) in the open.
This is Bill, contemplating a sandwich, a beer, and the size of the job. What you can't see is another woodpile, even larger, on the other side of the truck. The wood is a mix of oak, cedar, elm, hackberry, and mesquite.
The Mitsubishi, a 1985 model that we've named Casper (remember the cartoon character, a gray ghost?), is our ranch truck. Not much fun on the freeway, but a heckuva workhorse. I drove it to Vancouver (alone) and back (with Bill) one year--now, THAT was a trip.
And this is the fruit of our labor, part of it, anyway. By this evening, the stack will run the full length of this wall. Our winters are typically mild enough so that we can heat the house with the fireplace, using the heater just to take the morning chill off.
I don't have Aldo Leopold's Sand County Almanac handy, but whenever we're splitting wood for the fireplace, I remember the passage where Leopold is cutting up a downed oak. The tree, he says, is "stored sunshine." And I think: each of these pieces of wood comes from a tree that lived for twenty, thirty, fifty, a hundred years--years of sunshine, rain, wind, storms. It gave refuge to birds and insects, offered its seeds to animals, gave its leaves to the soil. And now it gives its warmth--that stored sunshine, those pleasant rains, the gentle wind, the wild storms--to us.
Our earth is like that, isn't it? Such largess, such abundance, such generosity. If only we had the wisdom to use it more carefully.
Reading note: Before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood, carry water.--Zen saying