I like to chop wood. Sometimes when I feel stressed and my mind is overwhelmed with too many worries, I will go chop wood till my muscles are tired and my mind is calm. Sometimes I have to chop wood when I don’t want to, when the weather is very cold or the rain is falling, but still I like to chop. My father gave me a small ax when I was about 7 and taught me to use it carefully, to make kindling for starting the fires. While I nibbled away at my small pieces of wood, he would smash huge logs apart with a single swing and a sound like lightening cracking through rock.
He did it so easily, with hardly any effort.
I wanted to chop just like him, someday. I wanted to see big logs fly apart as a great crack of thunder split the air. I practiced a lot, taking on big logs and swinging with all my might. I watched him closely trying to learn his secret. He tried to teach me.
My logs would not split, my ax would bounce off and I would swing again and again till my arms shook and I wanted to cry from frustration.
“Just do it easily,” he would tell me. “You are trying too hard, take easy swings, let the handle slip easy through your hands.”
I tried. It did not work!
“It is because you are so strong,” I said.
“No,” he assured me. “It is not strength. You can do it,” but he did not know what to tell me, to make me able to split the wood.
I swung with anger! I swung with frustration!
It did not work! It was easy for him, he was powerful. I could split smaller ones; I could make piles of kindling. I tried and tried and only failed to split the big logs. I tried for many years.
One day my mother watched me try. I groaned and cursed in frustration.
“You will get it,” she told me.
“I will not! I have tried everything,” I said angrily.
“You will,” she said. “Because I am going to teach you the one thing you need to know that no one has told you. Pick up the ax and close your eyes,” she said. I did as she said.
“Now imagine that the wood is not there, only the Earth,” she told me. I did as she said.
“But how will this help,” I asked.
“Now imagine that you are going to split the Earth,” she said.
I was reluctant, but I swung. The wood gave some but not enough.
“It did not work,” I told her.
“That is because you are still thinking of the wood,” she said.
“How can I not,” I asked? “The wood is still there, I still see it.”
“The wood is only in the way. You don’t care about the wood, you will only pass through it on your way to split the whole Earth in two. Now imagine it in your mind.” I closed my eyes for a moment and imagined the swing of my ax, the piece of wood melting apart like a smoky shadow as my ax sliced through it on the way to the Earth. The Earth splitting into two hemispheres, that fell apart into outer space.
My ax was already swinging through the air as I opened my eyes; the ax head sliced through the wood and fell apart into two pieces.
I remember that I shouted and jumped into the air. I remember the triumph that filled my chest like a choking powerful force. Finally, after all these years, I had done it!
“You will never forget how to do it now,” she told me and I never have forgotten.
So I like to split wood. It relaxes me. It calms me. I have a huge noisy, hydraulic splitting machine that can split wood so easily, but I do not use it, only my ax. When I use it I can hear the birds singing, the wind in the pines above. I can hear the voice of my father giving me advice, when he no longer walks this Earth with me. When I chop, I can think and remember and I can hear my Mothers quiet words that finally let me hear the Earth split in two.