On the morning of November 9, I readied my young niece and nephew for school. I made sure their hair was brushed and their faces washed. And then I went outside to split wood.
It's a skill I picked up years ago when my wife and I lived in rural Vermont. Back then I was clumsy. The wood maul would swing wildly and I would consistently fail to hit my mark. But every so often I would. And with a delightful clink and crack, the log would split. I would set one half upright. I'd swing the maul. And I'd split the log again. I came to relish the focus of mind and the consistent twist of arm and torso and roll of hand that proceeded the crack of wood.
Decades have passed since then. But on this morning I stood out in the warm mist and I found that the body can and will remember.
As I swung I thought about my grandfather.
Born before the turn of the last century, as a young man he worked the Russian Railway at the pleasure of the Tsar. He lived through the Russian Revolution and the Great War. In middle age he lived through the battlefields of World War II. He witnessed the slaughter of a third of his village and the invasion of his homeland three times in 25 years. And in the winter of 1945, alone and penniless he struggled to keep his children safe from harm.