On being a human wood chipper
Sisyphus would love this one
Anybody remember them storms?
Hurricane Fiona hit here. I’m still cleaning up. The back yard has multiple piles of maple and willow trunk to be chopped and sun cured. Ideally, some will be ready to burn by the winter.
There are piles of logs still in need of some chain saw action. Then, there’s the heap of branches. The heap of branches is almost as large as our house. It takes up most of the back yard. Some of the sticks are mere twigs. They are easy to beak by hand. Others, I’m chopping.
One by one I’m pulling out branches and dismantling them. The branches are being whacked into two to six inch lengths. Little nubs. The leaves are being pulverized. It’s slow work, impossibly slow. Some say this is a job for a machine - an industrial wood chipper perhaps.
Where’s the fun in that?
Where’s the fun in chopping this all by hand you might ask?
It’s not fun. It’s endless. Painful. Boring.
And I love it.
And it’s not fun.
There’s something wonderful about having a task to do that takes longer than a day, yet provides an endless chain of small satisfactions. Each swing of the hatchet results in a satisfying sound. Each swing of the hatchet causes intensive visual stimulation. Things break and split in novel, unexpected ways. Best of all, there’s danger involved.
I keep my tools very sharp. I could shave with my carpenter’s hatchet. If my attention drifts for even a moment, I’ll have a thumb stump to burn in the wood stove this winter.
High stakes, focus, novelty and endless exercise, what could be better than having a yard full of branches, a sharp hatchet and time to play? My woodpile is my passion. Breaking up branches is becoming a nice hobby.
As I work on the pile, leaves are falling. The pile gets smaller from my work. It then grows again as it collects neighborhood detritus. It’s a bit like Sisyphus and his rock.1
Unlike Sisyphus, I don’t mind being crushed. I like the work. My woodpile, the boulder in question, I choose.
What seemingly absurd action do you find soothing?
What crushing engagement do you keep going back to?
Is there any joy in being crushed?
What happens in knowing that the moment you’re finished with one struggle, another is just around the corner?
Myth of Sisyphus, life is little more than rolling a huge boulder almost to the top of a large hill only to have it roll back and crush you.