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Monday, October 5, 2020

Chopping Therapy

By Audrey Elder


That’s right, chopping therapy. Me, a nice warm red and black flannel, my
hiking boots, my axe and wedge. Out to the woodpile I go, find a nice wide chunk of walnut, lift the axe up over my right shoulder…. and whack! I remember why I brought the wedge. Either way, after a full wheelbarrow load of fresh split logs for the fire… I feel better.

Full disclosure here, I own a gas-powered log splitter. That’s not the point. There are just those moments in life that require a break from everything, a little exercise induced endorphins and a zoned in focus on a simple task. For me, there is no better way to achieve this than chopping firewood.

 Imagine this scenario. It’s a beautiful chilly Saturday in October. A crisp cool north wind pours across the yard carrying hundreds of gold and red leaves from summers fading trees with each gust. Inside, a full house filled with the sounds of individual activity. Kerplunk, boink, swoosh, boink, ahh someone is playing a game on their tablet. Someone else is having a lively conversation on their phone. Another is cranking up the volume on the television, this is their favorite part of the movie! You clutch the book in your hand, your eyes roll slightly, the plot has just begun to reveal itself. You count to ten. The words blur as if they refuse to be legible amongst ALL THE NOISE. See? This, this my friends, is when the woodpile calls to save your sanity.  

 It could be a needed break from a frustrating event like trying to put a dresser together that came in a flat box. It could be when your computer decides to update everything the moment you’re about to send the email that was due an hour ago.  Or, in 2020, it could just be because it’s 2020. Whatever it is that brings you to the brink of allowing your inner five-year-old who didn’t get a puppy to show up around any other human, nothing works better than chopping therapy. Not to mention the added bonus of never having to leave your home, spending NOTHING, and actually getting something accomplished.

 The first log that splits all the way through creates an inner celebration. A joy of nearly primal accomplishment. There I stand above my TWO pieces of firewood holding my axe to the sky, steam pouring from each breath into the frigid air as I think about how this act may please my flannel wearing ancestors who chopped wood or froze. Depending on what level of angst brought me to this place, I may keep chopping! I might look down at those two pieces of firewood and think, those are a bit large. I might decide to split each of them as well. I of course negate the wedge with at least the first whack. Even this will provide a place to pound the wedge in. The first piece splits! Ah Yes! I am still dominating this wood pile! The second piece….whack…wedge….whack….wedge stuck…whack….wedge stuck further….wood turned sideways….attempt to push wedge out with axe…axe is stuck….lift axe with log attached and beat log on another log… At this point, whatever has brought me to this place is gone and forgotten. It’s just me and the impossible piece of wood. It’s war and I’m determined to win. So, whether I actually do win and leave pushing my wheelbarrow full of firewood pridefully to the front porch or I end up having the emotional outbreak I likely needed to in the first place, its over. I’m ready to return to the task inside that awaits me. Refreshed, clear headed and completely physically exhausted.*

 These kinds of days end the same way all days do, the sun goes down. We all gather in the living room after dinner to watch a show, cozy and warm as the fire flickers through the glass door of the woodstove. My husband lovingly reaches over and taps my shoulder, “You look like you feel much better now.” I smile with tranquility, “I do feel better dear, much better.”

Chop safely, chop often, and always chop for inner peace. In some odd way, I’m sure this helps make the world a better place.


*For the same results in the summertime, spend half an hour trying to start a gas-powered lawnmower.

Audrey Elder is a free-lance writer and owner of Past to Present Research in Independence, Missouri. She lives on a 14-acre homestead with her husband and a few million honeybees.