Oregon writer, Rain Trueax, and Oregon painter, Diane Widler Wenzel co-author Rainy Day Thought. Diane generally posts on Wednesdays and Rain on Saturdays. There may be extra days or changes as situations warrant. Comments are always welcome and appreciated as it turns an article into a discussion.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

the Zen of stacking firewood

 "One way to think of zen is this: a total state of focus that incorporates a total togetherness of body and mind. Zen is a way of being. It also is a state of mind. Zen involves dropping illusion and seeing things without distortion created by your own thoughts."
"Sun is warm, grass is green."
from the Urban Dictionary

I won't say that I'd like to spend months stacking firewood, but there is something very satisfying about doing the amount I do have to do. First of all there is the fact that while doing it I really don't have to think of anything beyond the wood and the job at hand. There is nothing but the moment, the physical labor, the feel of a chunk of wood in my hand, three or four cradled in my arms, the satisfaction of seeing a well-balanced stack grow. The only thinking required is which pieces of wood will make a good crib at the end of the row. The only thing beyond 'the moment' is imagining the winter fires from it. The wood that will be just outside the door  if our power goes out.
Basically there is some good exercise attached to moving the wood from a loose pile to a strong, easy to access stack. Bend and pick up a chunk. Get another. Usually for me four is the maximum at one time and then walk to the stack and decide where these go. There is no room for wondering whether Obama will ever get his mojo back. The only mojo required is mine.

Some years, I have stacked a cord of firewood in a few hours or less. I was younger then. I suppose I could still do it if I really needed to. I don't need to. So I stack some and then go in the house to check online or write something, maybe have lunch, drink a cold drink. When my body feels ready, when I have caught my breath (yes, it is aerobic exercise), I go back out and repeat the whole process.

This year I stacked some of it in the rain which added another pleasing element as it wasn't a cold rain. It didn't even require a coat. It was a nice steady rain where I could hear it falling, hear the creek below the house and then the clunk of the wood as it hit the pile.

Sorting between the firewood we bought, which is wonderfully split, so dry and easy to work with, fairly uniform in size, and the wood that Farm Boss dragged from the back, yields another aspect to the task, a bit like life. Sort the good and easy to add to the pile wood from the difficult and how the heck will that one ever fit in any stack wood.

I suppose it could even yield a philosophical metaphor to the stacking if one wanted to go there, but I'd rather just leave it at one of my favorite jobs around the farm. One I hope to be doing for many years if my body holds up.


Paul said...

I always had a Zen experience when I chopped wood. :-)

Anonymous said...

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similar in the past? Keep up the great work!

robin andrea said...

Such a great description of your zen experience. Reminds me of this:
“Before enlightenment, chopping wood, carrying water. After enlightenment, chopping wood, carrying water.”

Stacking wood, too, utterly in the moment.

Ashleigh Burroughs said...

Bend. Lift. Turn. Place. Repeat.

I sorted out my worries as I stacked and accomplished something.

Stacking wood remains my all-time favorite aerobic exercise.

Annie said...

Oh yes, I'm with you! Stacking wood is the greatest! Good job

mandt said...

We are so with you on this one! Our years in Vermont made 'stacking' (there's the old toss where land may catch can and the other way: bit by bit, orderly and wall-like) the best moments of early Fall!

OldOldLady Of The Hills said...

I can really see and understand the peaceful feeling this would create, and it is a "creative" endevor, Rain. Figuring out what would go best where, etc....It becomes a kind of 'work of art'. I'm happy for you that you CAN do this, and I hope you are able to do it for many many MANY years to come, too! I must say, I really hate that my body has betrayed me--So many things I can not do any longer.....It Sucks!

joared said...

Yeah, and then there's cutting down the mile high trees, trimming the trees, sawing up the wood to fireplace length logs, followed by grabbing a sledgehammer and a wedge to split each log in that firewood before stacking -- all manually. Zen sometimes. Other times pure hard labor for about 4 years of this teenage girl's life. Thank heavens it didn't get too cold in the winter for that old wood burning fireplace.

Paul said...

Rain : I always had a Zen experience when I swept the firehouse. This is no joke. It was a very meditative experience.

Ingineer66 said...

I have stacked a lot of wood, nearly my lifetime quota. Now that keeping warm does not depend on it and I have gas fireplaces in my house, so there is no indoor mess. It is kind of fun chopping and stacking a small amount of wood for an outside campfire once in a while.

I sure wish I could have had an iPod to listen to for all those years when I stacked cords and cords of wood. Music just helps chores go faster and the earphones help keep distractions away allowing me to just focus on the task at hand.

roger said...

i find that the possibility of bruised fingers tends to sharpen my attention to the task, blotting out philosophical concerns. the positive part, stacking the wood neatly and artistically, also requires diligent attention.

nice stack.

Darlene said...

This is something I have never done, but, as I noted on another blog, this kind of physical labor is very therapeutic and releases a lot of stress.

TaraDharma said...

lovely post, Rain. You have captured, exactly, the zen of stacking firewood. I'm in process of searching around for best prices right now and look forward to the satisfying commotion of a cord being dumped into my driveway. I take lots of breaks so as to remain physically whole after the chore is done. It's a day-long task, full of lemonade or coco, thick leather gloves and patience.

Your stack looks very well done. You'll be well set for winter!

Anonymous said...

Remember that old, old book called Chop Wood, Carry Water? I like your Zen analogy very much for your own really tough work of wood cutting and stacking. Your lifestyle has got to be very self-gratifying but I know all the manual labor probably gets to you sometimes.

I like to think of you out there with the rifle guarding the sheep.

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