Some days bring frustration and tears. Lost work, dirty dishes, the same old emotionally loaded conversation that’s been had many times before. Squabbling children, dust bunnies on the stairs, crumbs under the table. I’m sure you’ve been there too.
Today I worked hard at creating a cover for The Parenting Primer print edition, then lost 2 hours of work when my image editing program crashed. I shed some tears over that, made myself a cup of tea, took a deep breath (or ten) and started over again. When the cover was finally done, Tom suggested that we try splitting some logs that were at the top of our driveway.
Why not? I had been thinking about going for a run, but decided to at least have a go at splitting those logs. Firewood has been on my mind a lot lately. We burned through most of the split, dry wood left by the previous tenants quite quickly and had been alternating between turning on the electric heat and having smouldering, smoky fires with some damp, freshly cut wood. During that time I’d even dreamed about carrying stacks of beautiful, golden wood in my arms, ready to heat our home.
The first axe stroke landed with a mushy splat. I wasn’t feeling too optimistic. These logs had obviously spent at least one winter outside already, and some axes are better for chopping wood than the old one I was using – plus mushrooms were growing out the sides and some of the bark was falling off. They were black and squishy on the ends. I thought that even if we did manage to split them, they’d have to spend the summer drying out before we could burn them. I wanted wood to burn right away.
A few axe strokes later and the first big chunks started coming off the sides. Whack. Whack. Whack. I was getting into a rhythm and a pile of reasonable looking firewood started to grow beside me. Tom came out and started to stack the pile of split firewood. Inside some of those enormous logs the wood was actually quite dry.
Nothing cures emotional malaise like some productive physical work. Digging holes. Clearing brambles. And as I discovered today, splitting firewood. The axe does most of the work as it falls, I just have to do the work of lifting it up again and again.
As I worked I smelled the forest around me, warming up in the late-winter sun. One of my neighbours lit their wood fire, and the smell of the forest, the split logs and the wood smoke made me feel like I was camping. Except instead of splitting logs beside a tent or our camper van, I was splitting logs next to my house. “I live here!” I thought.
Struggle and frustration are not fun, but they remind me that I’m learning. They remind me of what it’s like to learn something new, of how painful it is to want to be able to do something that you can’t do yet. My own struggles can remind me to be patient and compassionate with my kids when they are struggling with their own learning.
Splitting firewood didn’t make the struggle go away, but it sure did help me feel better. Especially having the satisfaction of a bright, merry fire at the end of the day, and a good pile of dry wood in the woodshed for tomorrow.