The Art Of Cutting Firewood

It’s that time of year when us here in the hills are preparing for the basics of rural living. Basics such as starting the harvest of our gardens, canning, berry picking, both wild and domestic. Hunting season is still a few weeks off yet, but we’re preparing for that special time of the year. License, tags, and sighting in of rifles. Hopefully, we have enough dry firewood to stay warm during the cold months. If not, there is still time to cut a few cords, and enough summer left for it to dry adequately. Well, almost. Depending how much of a purist you are about your wood supply.

Which is the subject of this post. The art of cutting firewood. Since this post is ultimately supposed to be about writing, what does cutting firewood have to do with pecking away at a keyboard? And, how is wielding a chainsaw and ax an art? After all, it is laborious and a hell of a lot of hard work. I concede, that it is. And more. Much more. So much more. Cutting wood correctly is an art. And lessens the workload. The same can be said of putting words on a page in a readable fashion. The two go hand in hand.

A wise, old Indian once said, “firewood warms you twice. Once when you cut it, and again when you burn it.” Or something like that.  Again, you’re asking what that has to do with writing. You may even concede that firewood does indeed warm you twice. But how does that equate with writing?

Well for starters, writing also warms me twice. And often more than twice. First when the words go on a blank screen. It brings a warm feeling to create, to put words that mean something on a blank page. Then when I read what I write, the same feeling of warmth settles over me. I feel good about myself. It’s the same with a pickup load of firewood. I look at the back of my pickup burdened down with wood and that familiar warmth reaches my psyche.

Hard work I concede. And there are times when I swear I’m not cutting anymore firewood. Or split it. However, I always go back to cutting my own. Just as there are times when I swear I’m not writing another word. Usually happens when I get a rejection slip from a perfectly good article. Or, almost worse, only making fifty bucks off a thousand word article that is worth two fifty. But, I always go back to it.

Cutting my wood how I want it is a real art. The few times I bought a cord of wood or two, it arrives in all lengths except the length I need it to be, and usually will be more than one species. I have my favorites for putting out the BTUs on cold Idaho nights. Red fir tops the list. It’s getting to be an art finding red fir close to a road. Seems to be everybody else’s favorite too.

On those chilly mornings with snow on the ground and the mercury well below freezing, a cup of steaming black coffee at hand, and a fire crackling in the stove rapidly heating the house, I get to enjoy my art. Not only the radiant warmth emitting from the stove, but also I get to enjoy the art of writing. With my laptop in my lap, I get to put words on a blank screen. Cutting firewood and writing go hand in hand.

Dennis Pence