Splitting wood

In thinking back over some of my recent posts, I’m realizing that, for me at least, what seems to be most effective is documenting my experience and the happenings of my day, and perhaps then extracting mullings from there. I’m realizing that trying to tackle much larger issues – like the ongoing conflict of Israel and Plaestine – through general descriptions/off the cuff analysis may not be doing justice to the massive complexities of what’s going on here. That said, I may continue to wander from time to time, and I hope that folks don’t mind.

To take a plunge back into the day to day happenings: today, I spent most of the hours of the morning and afternoon hauling wood in a large plastic bin up the precarious rocky steps leading to Omer’s house, and then splitting the larger logs, which required a satisfying amount of brute force and sweat. It was amazing to me how very quickly I became invested in splitting wood, no matter how stubborn or knotted the logs might be. I really enjoy the fact that physical labor like this seems to leave my mind free to wander and to process. In this case, it was interesting to see how my ability to split a challenging log came to represent my ability to overcome other challenges in my life. Half the time, the splitter would get jammed in a knotted or dense log, and I’d spend the next ten minutes having to lift the splitter with the log still attached to the end. Omer taught me that it was easier in this case to swing the whole log down, and to hit the splitting surface with the flat end of the splitter, using the weight of the log against itself. It meant a bit more sweat and work, but there was something elegant about the trickier logs providing this added advantage along with this added difficulty.

Wood splitting, of all types of manual labor, is wonderful, because it is so incredibly immediate. You lift, you swing, and voila – what once was a solid log is now two pieces of wood ready for the stove. Even if it took thirty to forty swings of that splitter, it was delightfully satisfying to achieve that simple goal. At certain points, after having taken a couple swings with a trickier log, I would reach down to feel the dented surface of the log I was using as a splitting surface (so as to not break the concrete below), and the area where the splitter hit would be warm. Even though I understand rationally the idea of energy transfer and release, there was still something magical about creating warmth and heat through the act of swinging and hitting that surface – as if somehow the warmth from my hands was trickling down the splitter, and making its way into that log.

Its small wonders like this that continue to draw me to this lifestyle – both the immediate wonders and joys, and the longer term miracles: things like the growth of plants, or the production of cheese from milk. Understanding these things rationally, again, is one thing – but for me, there’s been something awfully powerful about being there, and seeing each step unfold; coming back the morning after, and seeing how the curd we were working on yesterday has settled, or changed slightly, making its way slowly towards becoming a delicious roll of cheese.

I wonder if I would have been inclined to see these things as a kid growing up, or how they would have needed to be presented to me to hold my interest, when things like nintendo so often drew my attention away. It’s strange to feel like a kid again doing work with Omer hear on the farm, knowing that growing up, I have only limited memories of pondering such things in nature. The clearest memory that comes to mind for me is lying down during nap time in pre-school, stretched out on one of those uncomfortable plastic beds that could be stacked and stored at the school, and cupping my hands together, imagining as I curled and uncurled my fingers that they were the petals of a flower opening and closing. I also remember looking over at Annie Aberly (spelling?) as I was doing so, and wondering if she realized what I was doing/hoping she noticed. Strange the things that stick.

Omer and I went for a nice long walk to close out the day, and he took me on a brief tour of some of the surrounding farmland that’s managed by Israel’s forestry service. All of the land is terraced on a hillside, and irrigated by the distribution of water from a local spring. The area is used as a genetic bank for various fruit and olive trees, and was also formerly used as an outdoor education classroom/facility. It was really cool to see some more primitive farming techniques (like the use of canals and gravity to distribute water) in action, and to see their simple beauty. The terraces were all built from large white and tan stones, and as a whole they looked like something I’d imagine being left behind by ancient Romans. After pausing to chat for a bit, we walked back towards his farm, finding our way by the light of a bright full moon.

That’s life on the farm: making cheese, splitting wood, walking, talking, reading, and enjoying the moments as they pass. The moon’s still out and it’s time for dinner. Time to see what culinary skills I can offer the master chef.

Love and laughter,
David

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