The ice storm brought down branches. We piled some in the backyard to turn into fire wood for the next ice storm.
The power company decided that they didn’t want branches falling on the power lines again. They cut down branches and trees. They piled them in the back yard.
After six months, it was finally time to clean up the pile of branches, clean up the woodpile. Andrew started working on the pile, moving the old wood closer to the house. I got out the chainsaw.
It started fine. It cut poorly. The blade was dull.
I have no idea when it had last been sharpened. Three of us have used the saw for different projects. We have a couple files, but none of us have used them.
I splurged on a new blade (I’ll get the old ones sharpened later). I put it on. I started the saw. It cut great. But it stalled. I kept trying.
It was still taking forever.
“Don’t push so hard.” Andrew mouthed the words over the roar of the saw as it started again.
I turned off the saw. He said, “You only changed the blade. It’s still the same saw. It cuts better, but it doesn’t have more power. Stop pushing so hard.”
Andrew has never run a chain saw. Never. How could he know what he was talking about?
- Not like my great-grandfather who homesteaded land in northern Wisconsin, turning jackpine into 2 by 4 studs.
- Not like my grandfather, who would wake us up at 7:30am when we were on vacation on some of that same land. He woke us up because he had been up since 5 and the morning was half gone and he knew we wanted to cut down that oak tree while we were on vacation.
- Not like my dad who spent more time building men than cutting trees, but still understood the value of letting the tool do the work at its own speed.
How could Andrew know anything about not trying harder than the tool, this 22 year old who five days ago asked a girl to spend the rest of her life with him, cats on the porch, her brother watching from the doorway, the neighbor loudly backing his car out of the driveway? Except the girl laughs because though it wasn’t the huge romantic event, it was a request perfectly suited to the two of them.
Steven Covey talks about sharpening the saw, about spending time to make sure that your tools are in good shape. I thought about that as I was trying to cut with a dull blade today. I thought about that as I had to figure out how to mix gas for the saw. I thought about that as I had to find the tool to take the saw apart to replace the blade. I thought about how much time I don’t spend on keeping blades sharp.
But then Andrew put it in perspective. Keep the blade sharp. But use it at the speed it was designed for. Relax. Let the tool do the work. Because maybe, if you slow down and let the work happen at the right speed, you can hear generations speaking in the voice of your son. As you spend time with him. Sharpening your saw.