Twenty-one years ago, I was a caretaker in British Columbia. As a going away present, I was given a Husqvarna 257 air injection chainsaw. In all these years, I’ve never had a problem with it. It still starts and runs like a champ. During the first half of our relationship together, it cut upwards of eight cords a year to keep my family warm. We’ve lived through desperate times together, in cold country, under harsh circumstances. It’s been my friend, my therapist, and my companion. It feels good in my hand, I like the sound of it screaming in my ears, the smell of the mixed gas, the bar oil, the saw dust.
For several years we lived in a one bedroom shack in the woods. We had chickens. The house was fed by a natural spring. It had no insulation, so we burned a lot wood. I almost always cut wood when I’m in pain. I cut wood to get out of the house, to get outside, to get my head right. I needed the wood, but getting the wood was what I needed more.
The sound of that saw is the sound of healing to me. For years, in the rain, I worked through mountains of rejection, regret, hurt, injustice, and disappointments. I didn’t pray through it. I worked through it, one cord at a time. I’d save the splitting to help me work through the anger. It feels good to bring that big maul down and break up big rounds. There is nothing like it.
I help men heal. It’s what I do. I know what they need, and more often than not, it’s a chain saw, a shovel, a hammer, a wheel barrow, a trawl. I don’t counsel men, I work with them and we talk. I rarely meet guys for lunch or coffee, but I do like to meet up while digging a ditch, planting a trees, fixing something, or burning brush. When you work with a man, you get to know him. You sweat together, you feel the project, you’re moving, you see how he thinks, you gain respect for each other, you get something done.
I have felt some of the most intense emotion of my life out running that saw. I’ve had it out with God on the most extreme levels in the woods with it by my side. I have worked until exhaustion set in because I didn’t know what else to do. I’ve wept with that saw in my hand. It’s made me feel powerful, and it’s broken me. I’ve bled with it, literally, on many occasions. I am generous in loaning out my possessions, but not my saw. I care for it, sharpen it, keep the mix right, the oil full, the filter clean, I chain it up when I go on vacation. There are many like it, but this one is mine. We’re as close as something without a heart beat can be. Someday when it dies I will mount it on my wall, and when people ask why, I will tell them the stories and we’ll feel it together.
I ran the Husqvarna today, it felt good, and once again it helped heal me. That saw has been a gift that has kept on giving. Find a saw, find a forrest, find yourself. Our faith is foundational, good counselors are a gift, friends are essential, but sometimes you just need a chainsaw.