About two years ago, Hurricane Matthew paid a visit to the coast of Georgia. We lost about 30 or so trees on our property and the task of removing them has been neither quick nor easy. The pine trees, slim and tall, assaulted by the intense wind and rain, fell over from the roots. Whereas an oak tree has a shallow and wide root system, a pine tree has a tap root – straight and deep. Even when the tree is on the ground, a pine tree’s root is still firmly in the ground and it takes quite a concerted effort to extract it. Once the storm passed, my family cleaned up the tangled mess of oak limbs right away and used chainsaws to chop up the pine trees somewhat in order to clear major pathways. Then we waited. Pine trees, of course, are full of pine tar, which surely must be the stickiest substance known to man, so we gave them some time to dry out.
My husband is one of those outdoorsy guys who has trouble sitting still. After a hard day at work, he will come home and work in the yard for relaxation. Perhaps this goes far to explaining why, at age 53, his jeans are within one inch of the waist size he wore at age 20. Another thing about Jeff is that when he gets stressed about something (or frustrated with me) he will go outside and chop down trees – with an ax. It’s his special kind of therapy and it has certainly served him well over the years.
A few weeks back, he stood up from supper and announced that he was going outside for a few minutes to chop wood. My eyes flew open wide and my mind began to race: “Oh no! What did I say???” He looked back over his shoulder, and added, “It has nothing to do with you.” Whew! I felt myself release the breath I didn’t realize I’d been holding.
Jeff went straight to work. Have mercy, there’s certainly plenty of material out there. From my current vantage point I can easily count over a dozen trees yet to be processed. He chopped and burned off small bonfires of stout pine logs, making a small dent in the lingering storm destruction of 18 months ago. Three or four nights each week, this has become his regular practice.
Last week I was feeling frustrated about some things, including the fact that every month I pay $48 for a gym membership I cannot seem to rouse myself to use. It’s one of those crazy Catch-22s of life: I love working out and feeling strong; yet getting in the car and driving ten minutes to the gym just feels like some sort of Herculean task. So, I donned my most ancient running shoes and joined Jeff at the tree line. If he was shocked to see me there, he was at least kind enough not to show it. Nor did he laugh when I said I needed to chop wood too.
After a pine tree has been felled, one of the first things after lopping it into manageable-sized segments is to get the root out of the ground. This is quite a task, you may be assured. Tree roots are deep and incredibly heavy, partly because they are packed with dirt, or in our case, red Georgia clay. Dirt doesn’t burn, so it is important to remove as much of the soil as possible in order to fully extract the root. Jeff assigned me one root and gave me his smallest ax. I began whaling away with great gusto, expending a great deal of energy but accomplishing nothing. To his credit, Jeff still did not laugh.
While I was whacking away at that poor root, I felt my mind free up, much as it did when I used to go on long runs. I began to think about how chopping wood with an ax is a great analogy for prayer.
In the coming days I will share with you some of the parallels that came to mind. The next installment of this four-part series will focus on Proper Tools and Preparation.