Therapeutic chainsawing

To some people chainsawing and therapy may seem to be worlds apart. The noise of a chainsaw may almost be torture; this is certainly the case with my wife. In the spirit of the slow movement, chainsawing for me is simply a focused exercise, a means to an end and a promise of things to come.

Some of my favorite childhood memories revolve around a fire. Camping holidays always culminated in a fire each night and many cold Melbourne winter weekends involved lighting a fire in the fireplace at the weekend – great examples of slowing down from the usual day to day rush to take some time with family to just be together in the moment.

To light a fire, among other things takes firewood. Now the simple option to solve this would be to head to the local Bunnings and buy some overpriced plastic bags of half dry wood that would smolder rather than burn, but that isn’t really the slow way. So my journey to a fire starts in the forest near Marysville, 12-18 months before I get to enjoy the warmth of the harvested fire wood.

In the forest scarred by the 2009 Black Saturday fires, collecting firewood involves a large chainsaw and giant rounds of wood. This is tough work, but there is far more to collecting firewood than this – and becomes an activity shared with the family, creating childhood memories for my kids.

There is a lot of joy to be had between the cutting and the fire. Firstly, there is the journey to get the wood which involves a day out of the city and away from the hustle and bustle. It may involve a cheeky dinner
on the way home around the (you guessed it) ‘open fire’ at the Healesville hotel, then finally getting home physically tired but satisfied from a day out. Step one complete: fire wood acquired.

They say firewood warms you three times: when you cut it, when you split it and when you burn it.

I sit at a desk most of the day for a living and whilst our office has been refitted and we now have these funky stand up desks most of my daily activities are sedentary. I am a ‘shiny bum’ as my tradesman brother describes me and the next part of the wood collection process, having cut, loaded and unloaded large rounds of wood is the hard physical labour of splitting. Our fireplace is quite small so the wood must be extra small to fit in which mean the splitting can take several weeks per trailer load. During this time, I try to steal a little bit of time say 15-20 min each night to slow down and do something manual and repetitive. There is an art to picking the weak spot in the wood – hopefully I will learn it one day! There is also an art to exerting enough force to break the wood but not too much as to jar anything or send the wood flying too far around the yard when it splits.

They say firewood warms you three times: when you cut it, when you split it and when you burn it. I feel I get a bonus warmth by moving it from where I have split it to where I stack it. Stacking for me is one of the most therapeutic parts of the process. There is some science to making sure that your wood pile doesn’t fall over and looks neat. There are also practical considerations such as stacking it in a way that your green wood doesn’t block access to your carefully aged wood. Once stacked it is a waiting game, but a wood pile in my eyes can be enjoyed visually during this time, it is a memory of the effort spent and feels like an investment in fun times ahead.

Finally many months down the line comes the burning, and there is nothing better and more relaxing for me than sitting around a fire on a Sunday afternoon and early evening, reading the kids their nightly story, putting them to bed and then warming my feet whilst reading. Slowing down to enjoy the moment by the fire even if just for a short time.