Like Shangri-La, like mathematics, like every story ever told or sung, a mental geography of sorts has existed in the living mind of every culture, a collective memory or hallucination, an agreed-upon territory of mythical figures, symbols, rules, and truths, owned and transversable by all who learned its ways, and yet free of the bounds of physical space and time. ~ Michael Benedikt
The ax is attracted to the log as surely as the bee to nectar, and when the blow is true and strong, true to its promise the log splits clean and shoots the kindled wood across the grass to be stacked. I am 35 and I live in a tract home on a suburban street: two-car garage, sprinkler system, hot tub, and wood-burning fireplace. It’s early fall, the days warm and the nights beginning to chill. I bend to pick up a log, find the most level end, place it squarely on the round of oak stump, and swing the ax back in an arc over my head and forward with force. I know by the crack of the blow that I hit the seam where the wood beckoned.
Over and over, lift-swing-crack, until the stack of firewood mounts and the music of ax playing oak and piñon no longer resounds in the canyons of family backyards separated by good-neighbor fences. Sweat trickles down my back, and my ax-embracing palms are tender. But I don’t want to let go of the ax or relinquish the power of arc and cleave. What I want is to stand in the body that swings the ax - stand tall in the woman’s body that swings the dangerous ax with precision and grace.
That was 30 years ago, and tonight I wonder why that vignette of a memory comes back to me with the full force of ax to oak. I think that was one of the first times I knew what power felt like in my body, and I knew that when I put down the ax, I also let go of the only power I recognized.
There is something out there that exists already, and when we act, we are simply stepping into what already is. So I think of the intention of splitting logs for firewood: the ax knows where it needs to strike and the oak invites the ax and the woman steps into the space that was hers before she entered it. Let’s say the wood is already split and stacked and burning on the grate before the woman enters the space and lifts the ax to fulfill the intention.
And so I go to bed at night and get up in the morning, step into the day that holds a space for me - not preordained, not destiny or fate - but the power to choose. And if I stand in just this spot at just this time and open my eyes and listen with my ears and feel the ground beneath my feet, I recognize the same power that propelled the ax. And all I had to do was step up.I’ll be damned.