We all need wholesome activities
that make us stronger.
Ted describes the satisfaction
he gets from chopping wood.
What's your bliss?
"I desperately needed to do something to regain my sense of self."
One year ago, I retired after nearly 26 years of working as a prison guard. My sanity was under siege. I was emotionally exhausted. I had been through two marriages and two divorces. I desperately needed to regain my sense of self.
I grew up out in the country so I felt a pull to return to the rural life. This lead me to a small town in the mountains of Eastern Oregon where I found a small log cabin which sat on one-and-a-half acres and borders the national forest. I immediately fell in love with it.
I moved in and began to prepare for winter. The main source of heat is a wood burning stove. My buddies and I cut firewood and piled it in the driveway. I have always loved cutting firewood... been doing it since I was a boy. And there's nothing quite as cozy as wood heat. The deep radiant heat will completely warm you on a cold winter's day.
CHORD WOOD DREAMS
One of my goals was to obtain at least 15 cords of wood. (One cord of wood measures 4 feet high x 4 feet wide x 8 feet long). The reason: Should I get sick or hurt and can't cut wood, I will still have plenty on hand.
First, I cut the trees on my property that were blocking a magnificent view of the mountains. The rest I had to find in the forest. My method was to go out early, cut a dead tree, bring it home, split and stack it. I would usually have the job completed by mid afternoon. I would then go out and do it again the next day.
Cutting firewood provides a lot of personal satisfaction and fulfillment on many levels. The first is becoming stronger. Operating a chainsaw and lifting 80 pound tree stumps all day will build a lot of muscle and make you "farmer strong".
I also feel like a man because I am providing for myself with my own two hands. There's nothing quite as satisfying as producing something directly related to your survival. Canning my own food is another such activity.
My granddad and great-granddad were loggers when they were young men. Gathering wood in the forest gives me a unique, almost spiritual, connection to my ancestral roots. I'm pretty sure that I can hear them cheering with each tree I topple over.
When I do simple tasks that don't require a lot of concentration, such as splitting and stacking wood, my mind wanders. I solve the world's problems and plan my next project. I think about my friends and family and wonder what they're doing. It's also great therapy as I work on my own personal struggles.
Pine trees release a substance called a-pinene. A-pinene is an anti-inflammatory which opens up your airway passages. Have you ever noticed that while walking in the warm air of a forest, you seem to breathe better and just feel better? That's the a-pinene. I think this is what John Denver meant when he wrote Rocky Mountain High. I experience this "high" and a wonderful sense of well-being every time I cut wood.
But the best feeling of all is the feeling of pride I have when I look at that big stack of wood. Not only does it represent my hard work, sore muscles, mashed fingers, cuts, scratches, slivers, sweat and accomplishment but it's also an amazing work of art ....if I do say so myself!
New First Comment from Bill in Montana -
A most refreshing article about Ted and the wood chopping building his spirit. I surely can relate to his experience. I retired to the mountains of the Inland Pacific Northwest after two careers, and like Ted found my dream place to retire on a few acres and a cozy little home that I built. I suppose the jobs and three divorces left me mentally depleted. It's been fives years now and I've never been sorry for making the choice to escape the rat race and move to God's true paradise. Now, it's only me and Murphy, my Aussie Shepherd dog and best buddy.
Murphy and I have only a wood stove for heat. It gets very cold in winter here in NW Montana and the snows do pile up and sometimes just keep piling up. We cut all of our wood from the five acres we live on... I turned the big 70 last year and don't move as fast as I used to, so cutting, splitting, and stacking firewood doesn't go as easy as it did a few years back. I don't know how many more years my Heavenly Father will enable me to continue my love of gathering and cutting firewood. But, since the wood stove provides all the heat, I must tackle the task and press on. However, wood cutting is something I've done since my youth and I am not a novice to it! There is something magically rewarding about cutting firewood that is difficult to put into words. It does something for my spirit too - it is rewarding, builds character both mentally and physically. Nothing beats a wood fire to warm heart and spirit. In fact, Murphy has his own little bed in front of the stove where he lays when the fire crackles night after night. I do believe it warms his heart and spirit also - I do think that dogs have some kind of a spirit as well, even if it doesn't say so in the Bible.
So for Ted in Eastern Oregon, keep up the good work there my friend. Press on and keep up the good fight, and when day is done and you're sitting in front of that wood stove watching the flames dancing and listening to the crackle of the pine and fir, have a cold one for me, because I'll be doing the same for you.