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That's it. I'm just going to spend my summer clobbering things with a steel maul.

Some call it "alternative heating."

I call it "anger management."

Dismantling a 4000 pound, 60 foot tall red oak into bite-sized, fireplace-insert friendly pieces is surprisingly calming.


Plus, and I can't stress this enough, it's ridiculously macho. If you're into flannel, scruffy boots, and smashing things into oblivion and then burning to bits of carbon, this is serious spiritual release.

So there's that.

Chainsaw. Iron wedge. Hours and days of smashing with a steel maul. You forget everything else and focus on the wood grain, and the swing, and the pop of the log as it's bisected into smaller and smaller pieces. It's very grounding.

Point me to the thing to hit and I'll crack it open. There's an elegant, straightforward charm to that. No ambiguity. This log. That maul. Hit log with maul. Again. Again. Again. Do it until it's all better.

I have to admit.

I've felt fairly rudderless since the GM bankruptcy last Monday. This sense that I've lost my keys and I'm trying to think back to where I had lost them...or the sense that I entered a room and forgot why I was there.

"Where did I put those keys? I unlocked the door, went into the kitchen, took them out of my pocket with my wallet and I put theeeemmmm...right..."


It's this nagging feeling of a phantom limb that itches something crazy.

For some reason there's been a growing sense of being adrift since then. Like the last strand of connection to a century old way of life has been severed.

Hmmm...Maybe it's just me.

I have this odd obsession with narratives. Stories we hand down and inherit that guide us in our lives and give us a connection to the past and the future and a frame for the present.

Those who lived in the world of the auto industry had a shared experience and narrative from a century of manufacturing. A sense of identity and story. And many lines to that shared story have been cut. A portion of the narrative is lost and regardless of how beleaguered the modern foundations were, it's left me, for one, feeling unanchored.

I'm reaching now for stories from the past to stabilize this sense of being uncentered. My mother's maternal grandfather the country doctor who retired early and made candy and bread sold to Mr. Meijer during the depression. My father's grandfather the bootlegger. My mother's paternal grandfather and the family farm in south central Michigan; stories of rock piles, a house completely off grid, and meals picked from the ground and cooked on a wood stove.

I've been longing for something solid.

Something I can see and feel and touch that connects me somehow to the world.

The mosquitoes have thinned out, and the weather has warmed enough to start harvesting and processing wood in time to dry it for the winter. Just in time. I love me a good hour of splitting wood.

Originally posted to Muskegon Critic on Mon Jun 08, 2009 at 02:47 PM PDT.

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