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Links in a Chain

The latest outdoor workout was renting a chainsaw and cutting up oak and maple tree logs into smaller bits that I will eventually split on some cold winter day. Or perhaps it will be someone else doing the splitting and enjoying the fruits of this labor. Yesterday I was just a link in the chain between tree and fire.

The thing is, I don’t particularly care if I’m the one burning the wood. I’ll savor it should it be me, but the whole point was to embrace the task of taking a pile of logs and transforming them into a neat pile of firewood. To complete the task at hand was all that mattered. Chopping up firewood on a warm day is a workout, has an element of danger, and requires focused concentration on the elements of the work that can badly injure you. Done well, it’s a joyful expression of being alive.

“Before enlightenment; chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment; chop wood, carry water.” – Zen Kōan

I finished the task and see the next one in line, awaiting my applied labor. And all of this is both satisfying and futile. The projects are endless, the output of money is constant, and the rewards are never guaranteed. But we do what we must to keep things going.

The noise of the chainsaw doesn’t fully drown out the call of the road, the call of the mountains, or the call of the ocean. I’m fully aware of what I trade off in experience for this one. But I’m at peace with my choices. The work must be done. And what are we but links in a chain?

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