Wednesday, September 15, 2010

stacking wood

I floated into that waking-up, half-awake cloud this morning and felt somehow relaxed that one man's mediocrity was another man's excellence. Not sure why or how or apropos-what this thought arose, but it was comfortable as an old slipper.

It seemed to be linked somehow to a couple of guys who came to stack a couple of cords of wood yesterday. Both seemed to be in their 40's and both worked for a nearby lumbering company and stacked wood on the side to make something extra. Shane and I missed the other guy's name.

Both were cheerful and hardworking and it was a pleasure to have them doing the work -- getting it done neatly and efficiently and getting over my own sense that having someone else stack your wood is somehow not right ... stack your own wood. But I am weaker now, so having someone do it makes sense and these two helped me to see through my own judgments.

Basically, I told them what I wanted, they understood, and off to work they went. Periodically I would go out to chat and see how things were coming. Shane, it turned out, had five kids and one grand-daughter ... all of whom delighted him. The other fellow had raised two sons single-handedly. Neither of them made a big deal out of their lives and accomplishments, but they enjoyed talking about them and then passing on to another subject, easy as two peas in a pod.

But when, in my mind, I stopped the conversation they so easily shared, I was filled with amazement. FIVE kids? That's a lot of work, a lot of love, a lot of energy. "Eventually," Shane remarked off-handedly, "you learn it's not all about you." And the other fellow, the one whose name I missed, concurred light-heartedly: He had had to switch his jobs around so he could work days and watch the kids at night ... year after year after year. Single parent. Whoa Mama!

Through it all, both men continued to stack wood and shovel shards and sort out kindling and laugh at each other's jokes. The were both open to another voice when I interjected mine and it felt like finding a seat around the general-store wood stove ... of course there was plenty of room; sit down and stay a while.

Somewhere in Switzerland, the Hadron collider was bashing particles together; somewhere someone was getting out of bed and remembering the dishes that weren't washed last night; somewhere a child was groaning over yet another peanut butter and jelly sandwich; somewhere, someone was concluding a business deal or executing and enemy; somewhere, someone was praising God or playing polo with a human head; somewhere it was sad; somewhere it was silly ....

It was an excellent afternoon and I didn't have to do a single thing about it.


  1. if i could just rant off something from the head: thanks, but i rather you show me the money.

  2. Great post. Thanks for listening to people--just as they are. I don't guess either of those wood-stackers sits zazen, but I wouldn't wager they know less than most who do.

    Recently, you wrote of Aitken Roshi's death and the ponderous burden of responsibility his dharma descendants bear. (I don't recall your exact words and apologize if I've butchered your sentiments beyond recognition.)

    IMO, the torch is best carried by those least entranced by the megalomaniacal potential of the position. So...on behalf of all of us confused, vulnerable, delusional, easily-mislead folks, thanks for keeping on.