How shovelling wood chips gives a new perspective on retirement

With retirement comes the gift of time and the capacity to use time in your own way.  You are free to eat when you want to eat, sleep when you want to sleep, play at new hobbies, and yes, manage those pesky tasks that relate to daily living.

Sometimes, though, you need to ‘mix things up’ to get a new perspective.  That’s how I discovered that the pesky task of shovelling wood chips would change my outlook.

In the past week I’ve been shovelling wood chips and loving it.  You may wonder what inspirations for a successful retirement can be found when postworksavvy finds herself mindlessly shovelling wood chips into a wheel barrow and moving the wood chips to perennial beds or to a giant compost pile.

How did I get mixed up with wood chips?

The wood chips were left at our cottage after removal of three dead and damaged trees.

When I asked the contractor to leave the wood chips I had no idea that three mature trees would make a pile that is over 6 feet high and more than 8 feet across.

Wheel Barrow and Wood Chips
Only Half of the Woods Chips have Moved

My plan was (and is) to use the wood chips as mulch in some of the beds of my evolving shade garden.

For more than two weeks I avoided the wood chip pile despite comments from neighbours about the size of the pile.  Last weekend, after the Ontario heat wave broke, I borrowed a wheel barrow and began to move the wood chips.  As I sit down to write this post, half of the pile has been moved.

How does moving wood chips provide satisfaction?

The sense of satisfaction grows as I watch the pile grow smaller.  It provides tangible evidence of accomplishment which provides inspiration to continue with the task.

Shovelling wood chips is light exercise. My muscles ache from the repetitive exertion but the ache is pleasant.  Exercising in a new way provides a pleasant change from the usual physical exercise routines (yoga, swimming, walking, and weights) that keep me agile.

The bonus of this mundane task is that I am outdoors enjoying the benefits of fresh air at my woodland cottage setting.  Aside from a few bothersome mosquitos, it is interesting to see the variety of beetles, ants and other insects that have found their way into the pile of wood chips.

Moving wheelbarrow loads of wood chips is a routine task that allows the mind to wander.  There is time for reverie as I mindlessly load and unload the wood chips.  My brain moves out of its usual thinking ruts and I have time to consider other ways of looking at old problems.

A New Perspective

You don’t need a load of wood chips to gain a new perspective.  Any change that involves a new task — especially a task involving physical work — can move you from the ruts you are in.

A few years ago, a colleague who was an accountant told me that she refused to participate on her church’s finance committee because she wanted to do something that was not related to her daily routines.  She signed up for kitchen duties related to coffee hour.  Working in the kitchen was very different from the professional roles which she usually occupied.  She told me that she looked forward to the kitchen duties as these tasks provided a welcome change.

Methodically working away at moving the wood chips made me think of her comment.  Because I spent most of my career days in a ‘thinking environment’ of meetings, reports and professional activities I have naturally gravitated to books, to service on volunteer boards and to writing during my retirement.  These activities provide satisfaction while allowing me to continue to use skills that I acquired during my career.

Moving the wood chips has offered a pleasant change.  I realized that I enjoyed pushing the wheelbarrow more than I had ever enjoyed attending meetings.  I realized again how much I enjoyed my own company, doing physical work, and being outdoors.

By mixing things up in your life you gain a new perspective.  Sometimes new perspectives emerge in the strangest fashion like the mindless and repetitive task of moving a very large pile of wood chips.

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