What I Thought About While Cutting Firewood

Yesterday, I was out limbing fallen trees so that we can cut them up with the chainsaw without killing ourselves. It is good not to freeze to death. It is also good not to have logs fall on you while preventing freezing to death.

What I was thinking about was this: When we first moved here, I looked around the property, and I saw a whole lot of dead trees still standing. I knew that you needed dry wood to burn, and one day while my father was visiting, I waved my hand at all these dead trees and said, “We thought we might cut some of these for burning.”

He looked at me horrified. “That’s a widowmaker. You can’t cut that!”


“You can’t cut a dead tree! It will snap in half partway to the ground and you have no idea where it will fall. It could kill you!”

“Oh,” said I, pleased that I had mentioned this whim to the right person, the one who knew the word, “widowmaker”.

So what I was thinking about while cutting firewood yesterday was the loss of traditional knowledge encoded in language. I pondered this for a while, the loss of entire languages, ways of being, and how if I hadn’t told the right person, I might have been killed by a falling tree, since that is one of the practical pieces of knowledge that we haven’t retained in our rush to urbanization.

And then I thought, “See? This is why I can’t write fiction. If I wrote this as the internal dialogue for a character, nobody would believe it.”

5 responses to “What I Thought About While Cutting Firewood”

  1. Interesting. We used to cut dead trees all the time for firewood when I was young. This was in a forest, so no issues with intensely top-heavy trees, which can be dangerous.

    I’ve only ever heard “widowmaker” used to describe an already cracked or broken trunk or branch. But hey, I’m an urbanite, so assume I know nothing 🙂

  2. Sounds like an excellent excuse to play with remotely controlled destructive devices (saws or explosives, you pick) to me.