Story last updated at 7/2/2014 - 2:56 pm
Abe, his wife Julie and I went to the woods to harvest wood deliberately, to cut only the essential dead cedar and see if we could use it to keep warm once winter settles in; it's never a pleasure to discover there won't be enough for the season.
Ok, so our retreat into the forest wasn't at all Thoreauvian because we weren't looking for an enhanced connection to earth or life itself. We just wanted to find some nice dead trees close to the road, fill my truck, fill their truck, then get back, chop the rounds, stack it and let it get nice and dry for the cold months.
We needed the first part of the wood for heat process. The simple, mechanical process which appears in everything. But the truth is no one enjoys the process. There are simply varying degrees of satisfaction that come with being engaged in it. Much like no one enjoys all those required college classes which have nothing to do with your major, but they are a necessary means to the desired end. Looking back, it's likely you're glad you stuck it out, but you certainly don't point to that "D" in college Algebra you got a year after an "A" in calculus as a high school senior and say, "Yeah, check that out."
Well, at least I don't.
You don't cry out, "Yes, more" when a gnat flies into your ear while you're cutting a limit of king salmon into edible chunks you will then have to vacuum pack or wrap yourself as the next step before finally they are placed in the freezer.
But to avoid the gnats and interrupt the process, or cut it off means that you are trading someone else money to pick it up for you. The process must be complete one way or another.
In Alaska the process is much more prevalent and noticeable than other areas, and for that I am grateful.
During previous summers, I'd arrive in June and there'd be five or six cords of wood waiting to be split. I picked up where the initiator of the process dropped off.
Last week it was different. The three of us were in it from start to finish. I was the only one who was a little excited at the prospect of taking a chainsaw to a tree and hauling it. I'd get a nice column idea and a solid workout.
It's not like that though. It wasn't fun. It wasn't a work out. It was carrying large rounds of wood through a muskeg then throwing it into a truck bed. No rep counting, just concentrated steps on squishy ground. In other words, it sucked.
That night, I ate my steak and potatoes with ferocity. I was beat. Again, glad I did it, but fishing is so much more fun.
I could use my experience to argue that what's wrong with America is that we are no longer exposed to the process. Hard work seems to now be defined as beating the latest video game on the night which it's purchased.
I don't think everyone needs to go back to the days of everything being a process, but those processes are important skills to remember. We can't rely on subscriptions to idealistic thinking that nothing has to be dirty, nothing has to be mean or nothing has to die anymore. Life takes work. Simple hard work, and I'll leave it at that.
The three of us went into the woods, found some dead trees, cut them up, drank copious amounts of water to replace our sweat, then went home. Simple as that. Process complete, for now.
I have to do it again in a few days.
Jeff Lund grew up in Southeast Alaska and after 10 years in California, succumbed to the pull of home. He writes a weekly outdoors column for the Capital City Weekly. Follow him on twitter @alaskalund