“B.C.”– Before Chute
This is about firewood, life strategies, and the possibility of change.
I’ve lived in the same house for twenty autumns. For eighteen of them, I have carried wood down four steep, impossibly difficult steps into the basement. Two or three logs at a time, I have inched my way, struggled my way, transporting a cord or two of wood from outside, to inside—no easy task! At times, I have had help of good folk—young and strong people to whom I paid money, whom I insisted carry the wood down the steep, impossible steps with me, mirroring my process, a process I couldn’t even identify as ridiculously ineffective.
Several years ago, visions of a chute came into my mind. How perfect would it be, I thought, to have a chute, some channel through which the logs could simple be dumped onto the basement floor? I considered, I pondered, as I continued to inch my way, struggling my way, two logs at a time, down the horribly vertical stairs.
I forgot about the chute. Time passed. Seasons swept over me, each with their specific set of seasonal chores. This autumn, perusing the two cords of wood that needed transport to the basement, exhaustion and overwhelm set in before I touched a single piece of wood. That damn imaginary chute once again floated in and out of my awareness. How nice would it be, I pondered, to have another way of doing this Herculean task. Again, I went about my business, chutes disappearing from my awareness.
Later that day, I happened to see my neighbor, Mike, on the back road. Making small talk, I mentioned my upcoming weekend of wood carrying and just happened to mention, almost as random chit chat—yes, the possibility of a chute. Mike lit up—being a handy guy, a grin came over his face. “I can make a chute for you.” Seventy-two hours and $32 later, the chute was installed, transforming the impossibility of those damn four steps into a downward sloping channel.
And now, the great experiment began: one wheel-barrel at a time, I dumped the wood down the chute. Effortlessly the logs tumbled to the basement floor. Transformation of reality occurred. No schlepping of wood down horrid steps is needed—now, or ever again. The effort needed became super-minimized. There is work to do—loading the wheel-barrels, stacking the wood in the basement. Yet I did not even put my foot on those damn treacherous steps from hell. And hopefully I will never carry a single log down them again.
The wood is all in now, stacked in honorable and dignified rows, awaiting their call to service, their sacrifice for the warmth of our family. I’m relieved and amused at the workings of my wacky mind. Yet I must wonder:
Why did it take me so long? Why am I, in general, so committed to the way things are and so limited in imagining how they might be improved? And why am I so often dedicated to a harder way of doing things? What do I get from the struggle of it? Why can’t I more effortlessly give myself the gift of—well, less effort?
What about you? Is there any task in your life that you are facing that could be eased, lightened, and attended to differently? Just imagine. Perhaps it just doesn’t have to be so hard. That is a concept worth repeating: perhaps it really doesn’t have to be so hard.
Keep your emails rolling in. Let me know what is habitually hard in your life. How might your load be lightened? Keep me posted at email@example.com.