We bumped along the level 'B' road for an hour, continually jarred by crater-esque potholes; remnants of a good rainy season in the high desert.
Days earlier I had requested of a friend that he deliver a load of firewood to our house in preparation for winter, for he is after all, in the business of delivering firewood. "What are you doing tomorrow? If you are free, you could come with me to get your wood," was the text that I received in response. Although I had plans to paint in the morning and have lunch with other close friends, I felt the undeniable desire to join Scott for a wood-gathering expedition. I hadn't seen him for years.
There is nothing more satisfying, exhilarating, then seeing a person who is dear to you after a time of separation. This is at least my experience. Relationships are what we were all made for. Arguably, I would say that they are the purpose of life in the earth. So often we are seeking to know "what we are supposed to be doing with our lives" or "why am I even here?" Well look no further. You are here to love, to be loved; to share in the excitement of being in the presence of others that, if your heart is soft and eyes are open, is the equivalent of being in the presence of God. "He who does not love his brother, who he can see, cannot love God who he cannot see," a follower of Jesus once wrote.
Scott arrived in our driveway to collect me at 5:30 am, the hue of the sky beginning to warm with the first trickles of morning light. The stars were still out. After two and a half hours of driving and chatting (an hour of which on the aforementioned undeveloped road) we pulled over in the middle of the Carson National Forest and meandered through the undergrowth to a 75 foot dead spruce tree. Slamming the cutting edge of a small hatchet into the trunk with a resounding ping, Scott declared that this tree should be perfect. So we cut.
After felling the tree; a job that I observed from a short distance while the chainsaw in my acquaintance's hands sang with fury, we began to flip huge eight foot sections of the downed giant end over end, moving the soon-to-be firewood a hundred yards to a flat opening near the road where we could more easily load once the splitting had been completed.
There is great joy in physical labor. So often in today's western society we are afraid to work hard. We complain of a lack of work and of immigrants coming in and "stealing American jobs" while millions of potential employment positions are left vacant because people simply do not want to fill them. In the work that is completed, in every field and vein, mediocrity is often the norm. We do enough to get by, to get paid, but not enough that work of our hands is a living definition of excellency and beauty. I understand that there are exceptions and there are many souls who devote themselves, who pour themselves into their tasks and in doing so the work of their hands becomes an offering and blessing to men and to God. But, for the sake of our own personal well-being and sense of self-worth, we should all allow time for introspection and personal evaluation; are we laboring only to get paid or, regardless of the amount of bacteria-ridden greenbacks that pass into our hands, are we willing to commit ourselves wholeheartedly to the pursuits of life? knowing that what we do with love and with the intention of excellence becomes a blessing not only to others but to us in return. Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
A blown blood vessel, slivers, blood blisters, and two hours of chopping with an ax later, we had the blue Toyota truck bed loaded with wood and were making our bumpy way back down the mountain. As we drove, I drank in the beauty of the country around us. I have been in these mountains many times, but often familiarity breeds complacency and blindness. It's easy to take the places, people and things we experience everyday for granted because, well, we experience them every day. We must be present, conscious and quiet in our hearts to be able to appreciate the Glory of the Ordinary that we are continually surrounded by and immersed in.
This is what it's all about. To experience the joys and hardships of life. To make paintings, to make love, to sit and weep with a friend who has been broken by the world, to smell the gentle fragrance of a new-born's head, to run, to pray, laugh, cry, scream, climb, fall... to chop wood and be near a friend. This is what we are here on the earth for; to live and to love. We must approach every moment open and still enough to experience God. There is Glory in the ordinary but we need to take the time required to experience it. To hurry through life is to miss the best parts and to maybe never know, "what is my purpose."