Inspired by Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own, Anne started Womenspaces, a blog about home, family and personal relationships. We continue that tradition here, profiling pieces written by women who have come together through Richardson Media Group.
Up here along the New Hampshire border, winter often forces us to endure bone-chillingly low temperatures. The past week or so has been a particularly cold stretch with thermometers struggling to rise above zero degrees much of the time.
My family and I live in a big old house, circa 1850, so you can imagine it’s a bit of a challenge to keep it warm. To take the icy edge off, and not spend too much money on heating oil, we’ve come to rely on our hardworking Vermont Castings wood stove that sits proudly on the raised hearth in one of the two front parlors. She’s an old battle axe, constructed entirely of cast iron, her sturdy, curved legs supporting a powerful, cavernous body. In order to generate much-needed heat, she requires a steady diet of cord wood to keep her furnace going.
That’s where I come in.
Loading and stacking wood is extremely satisfying to me. It’s all about the simplicity of the action, the repetitive nature of the task and the sense of achievement when finished. I start by lifting the pieces of cut wood off the pile in the backyard, tossing them into the wheelbarrow. I follow that by tugging the wheelbarrow to the house, lifting the wood out of the wheelbarrow, and loading the wood onto the pile we keep on the deck. Then I start all over again. Not only is it great exercise to wrestle all that wood from the outdoor pile, moving it closer to the house, but even better, it’s a project that has a clear beginning and certain end. There’s nothing ambiguous about the work, and once it’s completed, there’s instant gratification. No ambiguity, No waiting, Just direct and immediate fulfillment.
My days are made up of many complex, sometimes difficult, often joyful, incredibly rewarding and wonderful challenges. I wear a series of hats and expect a great deal of myself as a parent, a spouse, a friend and a business associate. I recognize that my chosen roles are probably the hardest ones I could ever attempt to do, much less, do well at, in life. Yet, despite the difficulties, I relish these complicated responsibilities, and accept them willingly and without hesitation.
Still, you can see why I would seek out the peace, quiet and simple sense of accomplishment the woodpile offers?
Something else I’ve just started to explore is daily meditation. Like the woodpile detail, it appears to have a clear beginning and end, and the stretch in the middle looks easy to accomplish. Hard to mess up, or so you’d think? Surprisingly, meditation or “doing nothing for a few minutes” as I like to refer to it, is way harder than I thought it would be. You see, I’m a person who’s always in motion, always thinking, moving, doing, planning. And to meditate correctly, I literally have to stop. Just be still. Take a break. In some ways, I have to step away from being “me” for a little while.
Outdoor chores like stacking wood come more easily because I’m such a task-oriented person. Meditation, while kind of soothing, still feels funny to me, like I’m wasting time. Hopefully, as I practice turning off my brain, I’ll start to see the benefits of meditation as a stress reliever and source of calm. I’ll admit to enjoying the selection of bells and quiet music that comes with the sessions on my phone’s meditation app.
As the new year begins, I’m grateful for practices that provide me with much-needed solace and silence. Both the woodpile and meditation offer me a sense of peace in this loud and crazy world, if only for a few minutes a day.