This year our family was scattered for the holidays, so my son, Chip, and I planned to share a non-traditional meal on Christmas afternoon: I’d make creamed turkey with veggies, he’d make crepes, and we’d have cranberry sauce on the side. A few days before Christmas, he called to ask if I’d like to split the three large stacks of wood on my property on Christmas afternoon. A friend had loaned us his wood-splitter.
“That’s great. Yes,” I replied, smiling with anticipation.
Aesthetically, I love to look at woodpiles, especially when they are neatly cut chunks tidily stacked. A year ago, we had made three stacks in the yard: one by the stream (a fallen tree), one by the woods I call The Glen, and a third (diseased by years of poison ivy rope strangulation), in a grassy space near the road. Whenever I went outside, my eyes fastened on the beauty of the wood walls, and I felt much pleasure in the beautiful symmetry of the stacked circles. Now, after months of providing serene splendor in the yard, it was time for their next life season: providing heat.
The day was surprisingly warm and sunny, about 60 degrees. Chip arrived, checked the splitter’s gas tank, and found it empty. He knew I always have an extra gas can handy, but today it was empty. Nearby gas stations were closed. Fortunately our next idea proved fruitful: we found some gas (maybe a gallon) in the riding mower, siphoned it out, filled the splitter, and got to work. Chip loaded the chunks on the platform (the hard work) and I ran the hydraulic wedge back and forth (the easy work.) Soon, we got into an easy rhythm and I was running the wedge back and forth non-stop. But moments of unease nagged at me as I wondered if we had enough gas. We hoped to split all the wood today; the splitter needed to be returned that night.
As we completed the oak tree in The Glen and moved to the cherry tree near the road, I again worried about the gas.
“Hey, we’ll split until we run out and finish another day, if we have to,” Chip said. We resumed our work. Time pleasantly passed as we worked through the oak wood wall, when a sudden small knowing inside me silently slipped out and spread through my body. Deeply spiritual but not connected with formal religion, I had just remembered the story of Jesus feeding a multitude with just a few fish and loaves of bread. Suddenly I knew we would have enough gas to complete our task.
The release of that deep knowing instantly transformed our moments into a sacrosanct place. I noticed more closely Chip’s woodsman garb and slid back in time to when we lived on our Catskill Mountain farm. I saw our much younger selves engaged in this same activity. I recalled Christmases on the farm. I remembered a gift from my ARC co-workers when I resigned to move to Virginia: Shel Silverstein’s book, The Giving Tree. I thought of the unending generosity of that giving tree. Standing amidst pieces of split wood under clear sky and sweet winter sunshine, working with my wonderful son, I awoke fully to the day’s incredible abundance: majestic trees surrounding us, breezes whispering by us, mother earth beneath us, blue sky over us, the stream’s gentle trickle near us….
When we split the last chunk, Chip unscrewed the splitter’s gas cap. “We’ve got gas left over,” he reported, hazel eyes twinkling. “Merry Christmas, Mom.”
I hugged Chip tightly, as the full impact of both his and the day’s sacred gifts embraced me.