Split Decision

For the last month or so, I have enjoyed going into my woods and chopping up some dead trees that have fallen. I have found the process to not only be a great workout but also a mind enlightening experience. (read the article, Breaking Point, here)

The current tree I have been chopping away at is maple and approximately 24” in diameter. To a seasoned lumberjack, this would be a warm-up routine. For me, it was an intense workout. Having chopped all the way through this tree I felt a huge sense of accomplishment. I stand proud staring at this magnificent feat I have just achieved with my own bare hands. As sweat rolls down my brow, my muscles feel a surge of adrenaline pumping through me. At that moment I think to myself, “Now what?”

I decided I was going to try and split it lengthwise. It was about 7’ long and I figured this would make the piece smaller to move and I was eager to see the inside grain of the tree. I used my ax and staked a line on the end grain across the diameter of the tree. From there I used some splitting wedges, and with a sledgehammer, I tapped them into the endgrain. With very little effort the tree started to crack and part open. I continued to chase the crack going down lengthwise on the tree, tapping each wedge into the crack to keep the split moving. In no time at all, the tree was in two halves. 

Now I have split wood before and knew that it was relatively easier to split a tree in two rather than to chop it. But at that moment, what I hadn’t realized was the lesson it was about to teach me. 

Recently a friend of mine called me and mentioned that a long time friendship he had with another individual was over. He mentioned it got bad and ugly until it completely blew up. He mentioned that things were said and ultimately, in the end, they parted ways and there was no way of salvaging this relationship. I could hear in my friend’s voice that he sincerely was sad over it and wasn’t angry, but it was still painful to him. He just couldn’t go back. 

 I sat down on the tree and felt bad for my friend. I was thinking about his story and trying to put myself in his shoes. I know all of us have been in a situation like this before. But still,I thought to myself, how can this happen? It was at that moment I glanced up I recognized the answers were right in front of me.

I started to look at all the trees around me as relationships in my life. Some are small relationships that are just starting out, and some are big relationships that have gone on for a long time in my life. I realized all these relationships are because of a common core. Maybe that’s my childhood, my culture, my moral and spiritual values. Whatever it is, it’s the grain that bonds us together.  And just like the branches on a tree, we might have different interests but we still have the common core that unites us. 

I started wondering, “What if an individual I admire, value and look up to, does something that hurts me?” It’s quite possible this could happen. We all are human and imperfect. We all made mistakes and occasionally bad decisions. But yet, sometimes unknowingly, our mistakes can affect others close to us. 

I started thinking of that mistake as the wedge in the tree. The wedge comes out of nowhere and strikes. It might surprise or even might shock. That mistake, or problem, in a relationship, might upset me. But does that mean I should walk away from that person because of my feelings?

 I looked down at the tree again and realized that the wedge did not split the log, but it was the crack that split it. When I hit the wedge into the end-grain of the log, it did not split the tree in two. It only made a small crack. It took repeated tapping of the wedge and chasing the crack to cause the tree to divide. I related the tapping of the wedge to the repeated pain of the shock and it affecting my emotions. Maybe I would be sad, angry, or even self-righteous in thinking I have to tell my friend he is wrong! And at that moment, I have just widened that crack. Now when I approach my friend, his emotions will take over and he begins tapping that wedge in until it splits. And in no time at all, the friendship is separated.

I had to pause in my thinking and took a deep breath to relax. The thought of experiencing such an argument was getting me agitated, and yet at the same time, it weighed heavy on my heart. With my heart rate returning to a normal level I thought, “How can this situation be prevented?”  I understand I am by no means a psychologist. I am a simple furniture maker who probably spends too much time alone. Yet, I can see in nature a tree that has been split can either continue to grow and reheal itself, or it can stop and decay away. In either case, that tree will never be the same again once it is split. It is true, even with my best efforts, a friendship can split and go separate ways, and I too, will probably never be quite the same person. So I sincerely hope, if I should find myself in a hurtful situation with a dear friend, I will pause in what I say, and remember, “Do not tap on the wedge.” 

Chad Stanton 11-28-2020