Woodcutting

My wife and I went deep into the mountains for our winter wood this fall. It took some doing to find an active logging road and that’s good news. It means they’re running out of forest to destroy.  For ourselves we prefer to find downed trees or sometimes we’ll drop a standing dead one but mostly we get out winter wood from the leftovers. We found a logging road with a lot of fresh slash piles and we set to cutting our winter wood.

            I love working with a chainsaw. Years ago I worked all winter in a bush camp and I still remember it as one of my favorite work experiences of my life. I love the feel of a chainsaw in my hands. I love bucking and splitting. I love the smell of fresh sawn wood mixed with tree sap and sweat and the smell of the land itself. Even when I have to lug wood to get it to the truck, it never feels like a chore. It’s like a celebration.

These days I love the knowledge that the work I do is going to make the winter comfortable for my wife. We use a woodstove all winter. It keeps the hydro cost down and it just feels good in an old fashioned way. She loves to put on warm and cozy socks and sweaters and lounge in the radiant heat. When the lights are low, the music is on and the fire throws an orange glow across the room, that’s when we love being home the most.

            That day I sawed and lugged eight foot sections of downed fir out of the nearby bush so I could buck them beside the truck. Then we hauled long sections out of the slash with the truck and chain. It was hard, exhilarating work. My wife loved the feeling of being behind the wheel and yanking logs out of the pile. The wheels spun, dirt got spewed, and she was a working girl. She loved getting her hands dirty. But most of all we enjoyed the time together and the feeling of a good job well done.

            When the saw needed to cool we sat and drank in the feel of the land. It was an overcast fall day with the wind bending the tops of the trees and we could feel the edge of the approaching winter. Birds were calling. We could hear the sounds of deer and maybe a bear moving in the dry bush. We could smell rain on the wind. There was the feeling of change coming and it felt wonderful to be smack dab in the middle of it.

            Later, when we hauled the wood back home, Deb ran the splitter and I stacked all the wood. We got three quarters of our woodshed stacked and filled. Standing back and looking at it, there was a great sense of satisfaction in seeing our day’s labour piled up and ready. We’d made ready for the winter to come and even if there were another couple trips to be made we were eager to do it.

              Woodcutting is home work. That’s what makes it special. You bend your back to a thing armed with the knowledge that you’re taking care of home. There’s a special feeling in that. It’s a reminder that nothing arrives on its own. You have to work for things. I like the idea of that. One of the best things I’ve gained from living in a rural setting is the idea that it’s up to Deb and I to get things done. We can’t depend on someone else or the kindness of strangers. Taking care of home is up to us.

            When you work together it gets even better. My wife just loved the feeling of hooking up the chain and dragging logs out of the slash pile. I loved the look on her face when she did it. We laughed and we got busy and we got it done. In previous years I’ve done the job with a buddy but it wasn’t nearly as much fun as this. Guy talk is not the same for one thing. Guys are independent. My wife and I did the job together. We helped each other. That was the most fun, that feeling of helping each other.

            Because woodcutting is home work. Working side by side with the one you love is an idea and a practice as old as humanity itself. We become more through the effort. We become closer. We become a fully functioning, fully supportive unit. We are raised up by the feeling of a common effort. We are together. We are married.

            I love the feeling of a chainsaw in my hands. I love the ring on my finger. One job, two joys.

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About Richard Wagamese

I am a published author with 13 titles published by major Canadian publishers. I am a First Nations person from the Ojibway Nation in Northwestern, Ontario, Canada. As a professional writer since 1979 I have written for newspaper, radio television, magazines and book publishing. I love the culture of books and the people who populate it. 2012 recipient of the National Aboriginal Achievement Award for Media & Communications. View all posts by Richard Wagamese

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