Ghost in the Machine

The rain is pouring and hitting the tin roof with a rhythmic patter as a light rumble of thunder breaks over the red mountain who’s name I still don’t know for some reason.

I slip another savory bite of buttery salmon with a delicate snap of citrus into my mouth and take a sip of the chilled cremant bubbling in my glass.  If a deer or bear walks casually by the window I think I’ll call Disney because this can’t possibly be real life.  (I won’t of course mention the fact I also got a splinter in my foot walking to the kitchen in my socks, they don’t need to know these things.)


I think back to two summers ago when I was just another sweaty Angelino sleeping on a cot in front of a fan suffering through another record setting heat wave in a city where air conditioning is rare.

Here I am now in a sweater watching the rain fall, debating if I should start a small fire in the wood stove, and thinking with all of it’s headaches, spiders, bruised legs, lack of oxygen, and the occasional rodent boarder today at this un-sweaty moment what a delight it all is.


I got a late start this season with so much work travel and non-cabin adventures that I was dreading the list of chores that were piling up.  The biggest one being an actual PILE of wood that had taken over the whole yard and half of the driveway.


Five trees had be downed as falling hazards and not a moment too soon since a couple of them were positioned to freefall directly onto the cabin.  Normally in this case the tree removal company would haul them out and sell them to a lumber company, but being that our cabins were across a historic wooden bridge with a minimum weight load they couldn’t truck them out.

We organized a wood splitting day with our neighbors and an old timer named Cliff who does some handy man work on the cabins in our tract.

In our society of ease and leisure it’s hard to imagine that splitting wood could actually be FUN.  I don’t think the smile left my face for six hours.  I now completely understand why men love power tools.

The smell of the engine oil, the rhythmic hum of the blade chugging up and down, the ripple of my shoulders as I muscled another log into place.  That distinct joy of simple purpose and camaraderie.



I recently had a conversation at a friend’s book signing for a book he wrote about empathy.  We discussed how many people are constantly questioning their existence, their happiness, are they accomplishing enough, are they living their best life.  My theory is that because everything is done for us now and we no longer have to work to just survive like our forefathers did, that this idleness of time has led to our deep questioning of everything.  The simple act of chopping wood and feeling purpose and accomplishment has been lost for our generation.

There was an addictive rhythm to the splitting.   A desire to keep going.  Push harder.  Roll in more logs.  Bigger logs.  An amazing satisfaction to hurling the split logs into the ever growing wood pile.



Then the next day the stacking.  (Which is actually a lot more challenging than the splitting. ) We had some spills and thrills.  Bruises everywhere, skinned legs from my habit of throwing myself in front of runaway logs.  But the pain seemed somewhere else.  I was in the zone and it didn’t matter.



My boyfriend likes to sing this little song “Chores, chores, Michelle loves chores…”  And I do!

It quiets the mind.

We have these amazing souls and desire to be something.  Sometimes being something is just being.

That same boyfriend had the same stupid grin on his face everytime I looked up from the splitter.  He was talking to the old timer about birds and trees, while they shimmied up the biggest logs with a crowbar and rolled them down to the splitting pile where my neighbor Greg and I were manning the machine.

Aren’t we all manning the machine in the end.  The machine of our minds.  Our constantly questioning and searching minds.