It is not an axe. It’s a maul. An axe is graceful, curved, and as light as possible. A maul is heavy, blunt, and magnificently effective. It is purpose built for splitting wood. It is an instrument that – if wielded properly – allows the civilized homeowner the opportunity to briefly embrace the out of doors and then extravagantly reward oneself with a roaring fire and a good book.
Weighing in anywhere from three to four kilos, the maul has a sledgehammer handle and dull wedge business end. It is about weight hefted accurately. And like all great exercises of power, it must be done with purpose and with an ultimate goal in mind.
Like snooker, where the shooter imagines the ball in the pocket, or the surfer who keeps an eye on the wave and not the board, the maul swinger thinks past the upright end of the log. Imagine instead the ground beneath. The log itself is not a worthy adversary. With warmth and a satisfied sense of accomplishment as the final goals, you imagine your downstroke hitting the log and passing straight through. You are envisioning the victory, not anticipating the battle.
Once you get dressed in outerwear appropriate to the work and weather, pick up the maul and head to the woodpile. You are walking in the determined bootsteps of your forebears. They were good providers. They sawed, chopped, and split their way into the history books. As you lift, swing, and stack, it is not hard to imagine yourself in their august company.
If you think we’re making too much of all this mauling, if we sound a little overly zen about wallopping a log with a chunk of forged metal, if you think you can’t draw enormous life lessons from some mundane household chore, we invite you to try it some time. On second thought, we dare you.