Monday, August 13, 2012

Call Me Paula Bunyan, Or, I Defeat the Log of Feelings

I have a fallen white oak tree in my back yard. It came crashing down last summer, and for over a year, it's been blocking the path from our back porch to the driveway. We've been climbing over it for a year. Leaving it there wasn't entirely an act of laziness.

The day the tree fell, I went out back with my axe and a saw. I was determined to move the log out of the way. Unfortunately, the log defeated me. It's a huge freaking white oak. What did I expect? Instant capitulation? Hah! But I did have a new favorite pastime.

We dubbed the tree "The Log of Feelings." Over the last year, when I would get particularly frustrated or upset, I'd grab the axe and go a'hacking.

The tree started it. It originally landed on my roof, but we sawed through the little nub that kept it from hitting the ground.

Today, I went a'hacking. After a few whacks, I realized just how soft and squishy the log had become recently. We've had a lot of rain and hot weather, which isn't good for wood, but it's fantastic for wood you want to pulverize into mulch. I knew this would be the day. I would reclaim our walkway.

It took a while, and I have a blister on my hand from wielding the axe, but you can now walk from my back porch all the way to the driveway without having an advanced degree in monkeying your way up trees.

The part of the tree still stuck blocking my yard. It's WAY too big to move.

That big chunk of wood in the background is the piece I hacked off. The white thing off to the left is the Rubbermaid deck box I used to store yard stuff in. The Log of Feelings smooshed it flat when it fell last year.

You can once again see the stepping stones. You can once again USE those stepping stones, without having to climb over the waist-high tree, or tiptoe through the smashed Rubbermaid box full of slug bait and pruning shears.

For perspective, those stepping stones are 12" squares. The bit of log over to the right, under the main log, fell off the underside of the main log when it snapped. And this log is LESS THAN A THIRD of the whole tree, the rest of which still stands in my yard, serving as a squirrel habitat.

When I finally defeated my nemesis, I celebrated joyfully. I danced, pointed, and mocked the Log of Feelings. Then I realized I didn't have a nemesis anymore. I was sad. I couldn't explain it, but without the Log of Feelings, I was worried I'd resort to inappropriate displays next time I felt overly burdened with emotions.

But all is not lost. Nay, the Log of Feelings is still the Log of Feelings. Until it is finally reduced to a composted soil-like substance, I will still have my favorite pressure-release valve. There's nothing like brute physical destruction to cure frustration.

When I write, if the story hits a pothole, I like to know I can go outside and do something purely physical with immediately visible results. That pile of mulch? Yeah, I made that. And it's good for the garden, too! It beats the heck out of smashing the computer.

While I'm thrilled to death that I can carry the recycling bins out without risking life and limb (har de har), I'll almost miss our temporary roadblock. At least I can finally throw out all the ruined stuff that was squished in the collapsed deck box.

Am I the only writer that relies on this sort of physical barbarism to work out plot holes and characters who won't do my bidding? I'm planning ahead for the day when the Log of Feelings disintegrates. I'd love to know what everyone else does to relieve stress. Hell, the Log of Feelings has also been my main source of exercise for the last while! I need to think of my health, here!

What's your favorite thing to do while working through the tangly bits in your writing?


  1. Stress? What's that? *maniacal laughter*

  2. I don't have a garden, so the best I can do is go for a walk. Physical exercise of any sort, including violence towards dead trees, is great for relieveing stress.

    1. It's not just great for stress relief. That log has been my woodshed, where I spend a few minutes working through story ideas while venting some excess energy. Still, I might get to enjoy the rest of the woods around my house now! As a spectator, not a lumberjack, of course.

  3. I'm a walker, too. It clears my head and works out the obstacles. I can easily write whole scenes in my head by the time I get back home.

    Love the idea of your Log of Feelings, though. There is definitely something to be said for hacking at something to relieve stress.

    1. It's also great for upper body strength! And I agree, I'll be breaking out my walking shoes in the next few weeks as the weather cools off some. :)


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