I have a wood issue. I get jealous when I hear a chain saw. Same goes with the hum of a splitter. I suppose I could have worse problems.

For so many years when I lived in South Lake Tahoe, August would be prime wood cutting season. I spent hours cutting wood by hand. It was so incredibly therapeutic. On days when work was a grind and I was ready to toss the computer out the window, I would go cut wood.

By the time I finished, I was in a better state of mind. Head was clear. Wood was cut. I was ready for more work, or a beer at a minimum.

Rounds of wood, split wood and stacked wood are a ritual for many in the mountains. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

Now my maul, sledge hammer and wedges are in storage, as are the chain saw and baby splitter. I used the electric splitter for the really big pieces of wood. While this might seem odd considering the splitter was pretty small, it was so much easier. Getting both wedges stuck was such an annoyance to say the least, and that would happen on the monster pieces of wood.

All this wood – at least three cords – is what I used to heat my house each winter. Yes, I had central heat, but there is nothing like wood heat. Yes, flipping a switch for a gas stove is easier, but I still say wood heat is the best. I didn’t care it took work, that it was messy and could be a pain in the butt to even get to the wood pile some winters.

An unintended benefit of that wood splitting was buffing up my arms. This was wonderful for my tennis game, especially my serve. My serve just got better as I got stronger. Now I have to work on muscle strengthening in less exciting ways, or let my tennis game suffer.

I would get wood from friends – this would be in the form of rounds. Some I would find, so to speak. Public lands are a good source (permits required). On dog walks I would ask people what they planned to do with their wood sitting there. I kept the back of the Jeep free in case I spotted wood I could pick up then and there.

My wood days are over – for now. Other than for the fun of it, I don’t have a reason to chop wood. And chopping for the fun of it wouldn’t be the same. I see wood on the side of the road and want to stop. It makes me sad I don’t chop anymore.

When I was in Todos Santos, Mexico, I once heard a chain saw. (There aren’t a lot of trees there, so this was really an odd noise.) At first I thought it might be Bobby, who had a wood pizza oven business in the neighborhood. I fantasized about asking him if I could chop wood for him in exchange for pizzas. I never asked. I never found out who had the chain saw.

Now back in Tahoe I’ve thought about asking the neighbors if I could help with chopping wood. I know I won’t. I’ll just listen to the splitter and be envious. I know when it gets cooler here all I will have to do is press a button for the gas fireplace. I’m getting soft.

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