Thursday, October 24, 2013

Oak Lessons

Splitting some sections of new oak today, out of long habit wielding maul and wedge without too much thought: not hurrying to get the job done, just hitting the wedge a couple of times and pausing, listening for the tiny sounds that are oak's language of compromise, then hitting a couple times more, pausing again, actions my body and mind have learned to do without me... It surprised me enough to ask myself: When had I learned that? 

How had I acquired the ability to dialog with oak? I had often been in a hurry during the early firewood years, so I had to learn that oak yields slowly and at the price of effort, which is the nature of things in general, oak responding perhaps a little more fairly and intelligently than other materials. So I guess by force of habitual listening I learned when to move and when to wait, so as not to do twice the work for half the result. It doesn't pay to be pushy; oak isn't dumb just because it talks in whispers. 

Being wild, oak is also pretty wily, and has its quirks. If you insist on your way, oak will make you wait, one way or another. If in your interactions with that wood grain you try to hurry, in time you'll get angry and lose, because if there’s one thing oak knows, it's duration. If you're angry splitting oak, you're beside the point.

Then some time later comes the big oak lesson: your mind knows more than you do.

No comments: