Chop Wood, Carry Water

At this very moment, I reside on the edge of anxiety and acceptance, a familiar crossroad of a recognizable and well-worn route and the proverbial path less chosen. While there are challenges to be faced in any career, the peculiarities we face as performing songwriters continue to confound me. They somehow lie in wait, concealed by the shadows of my optimism and desire. And when they jump out to confront me, it’s always a shock, a surprise yet again even though I recognize them right away. Disappointment. Frustration. Insecurity. Injustice. I want things to be one way but they aren’t. 

We kicked off our new year with an at-home meditation retreat. It was our second one in recent months and we’ve committed to making it a recurring event. This practice of unplugging, writing, and resting allows us to reconnect with ourselves in a very powerful way. One of the more telling benefits is that I find myself connected to my responses with a removed curiosity that allows me to sit with awareness. I’m learning a great deal about myself in these moments. I’ve discovered a patience I didn’t know I had and in pausing, I realize there is a primal wisdom stored within me. I believe it’s within us all. It’s there for the taking whenever we need it. We only need to pause a moment, breathe, accept things for what they truly are, and then move on. 

Our little makeshift altar and nod to St. Cecilia, patron saint of musicians

So as I sit at this familiar crossroads, I pause, take that breath, and adjust my focus. I see that everything is exactly how it’s supposed to be. So while this particular situation didn’t work out the way I wanted it to, it’ll work itself how it chooses to and I’m grateful to be in this uncomfortable place. It’s teaching me. I’m learning to more quickly recognize my reaction and travel to acceptance. With any luck, these lessons will lead me towards grace. And I’m basking in this gratitude, letting it fill me. Fill me to the point that I overflow. It’s a lovely place to be. 

In the meantime, it’s time to chop more wood. A neighbor who’d taken down a couple of trees offered us the wood and so we’re moving it one truckload at a time, sawing it to fit our stove and splitting it as we go. It’s been a very meditative activity and has the upshot of getting me some exercise. (As Henry Ford said, “Chop your own wood. It’ll warm you twice.”) We’ve been able to stay ahead of the snow and cold just enough to keep the fire burning. It’s January in Iowa and the snow will continue to fall and pile up, but we’ll be warm. I split, Lauryn stacks, we both shovel. It’s very much a chop wood, carry water time around here and we’re grateful for the tasks at hand. 

Pause. Breathe. Accept. Move on.



- Dennis
January 22, 2019

Free firewood. Life is good.