Wood Splitting

My son's Hobbit House workshop.
My son’s Hobbit House workshop.

My youngest son makes his living as a builder. Often, trees must be felled to clear the construction site where he works. In the spring and summer, he hauls this wood back home to dry. Fall is the time for splitting and stacking and, recently, I joined him to help.

A small mountain of wood awaits us. We toil in the shade of a fir tree next to his workshop. He wrangles the rounds into place and I operate the lever of the hydraulic splitter. Once we find our rhythm, a pyramid of ochre colored wood splits rises, each piece an hour’s worth of BTUs for the wood stove.

My son reclaims wood from demolitions sites and refashions it into outdoor furniture and picture frames. This is a detail of a frame for the drawings of a local artist.
My son reclaims wood from demolitions sites and refashions it into outdoor furniture and picture frames. This is a detail of a frame for the drawings of a local artist.

The greenest of the wood, a diseased pine, squishes as the wedge parts the still damp chunks. Centipedes and beetles scurry across our shoes, away from the hospitality of the rotted bark. The more seasoned fir, dry as a skeleton, cracks like bones.

We pace ourselves with the size of the splitter’s gas tank, working until the engine sputters and dies. We rest in the shade, admiring our work and his property. He lives with his wife and daughter at the bottom of a dead end road that descends west from State 281. It crosses the railroad tracks and stops at a guardrail. Far below, the Hood River hurries along, murmuring its tribute to the pilgrimage of wild salmon.

Another detail of frames commissioned by a local artist.
Another detail of frames commissioned by a local artist.

Kayakers park their cars here during the summer months. Come winter, the county snowplow turns around in the broad expanse that includes my son’s driveway. His acreage peels off to the south and skirts the cliff of the river canyon. Eagles, hawks, and great blue herons ride the ravine’s air currents. My granddaughter will grow up listening to their voices mixed with the hoots of owls and the lonely drone of train whistles.

We stack the wood into neat rows, building a fortress of heat against the inevitability of winter. When the splitter’s engine cools, we start again on the unworked wood. Several tanks and two Sundays later, all that remains is a heap of cedar to hand split for kindling.

I depart, heading for home in town. Freckles of scabs dot my legs and forearms. Dried blood streaks the skin, which is as fragile as rice paper due to steroids I take for my cancer.

Sasquatch Chairs Commissioned by Lost Lake Resort. Made by my son.
Three of six Sasquatch Chairs my son made for Lost Lake Resort.

Nonetheless, I am healthy, healthy enough, at least, to assist with the rituals of rural living. The repetitive work of splitting and stacking firewood is a meditation on the cycles of the seasons of life. Winter is out there, coming our way, and we are ready.

6 thoughts on “Wood Splitting

  1. Beautiful woodwoork on those frames. Looks like he lives in a quiet paradise. I imagine that splitting wood is not physically easy work, but repetitive work is often soothing, especially when it’s connected with being self-sufficient. Very nice to hear that you came away with only a few cuts and scrapes and a deep sense of satisfaction.


  2. Holy smokes. I just saw your comment on my blog (smallmomentsofgreatreward.blogspot.com) and came to yours to read and find out a little about you. You have myeloma. SO DO I. You had a stem transplant. DO DID I! (A tandem, in fact.) Sometimes the small world is all the smaller. I blog about my myeloma in my small moments blog and also write a monthly column for the Myeloma Beacon. And I have a very good idea of where you live, having lived in Portland for several years decades ago and having both of my sons living out there now. Sorry to blather on: I’m just floored.


  3. Sometimes…you just have to cut wood. Good to hear you’re out there doing some work with your son. And love the way he repurposes the wood leavings – must have gotten that creative bug from someone’s gene pool… 🙂


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