I spent the morning working on a Holzhausen. It’s a skep-style way of stacking firewood. A haystack shape, rather than the matchbook cord of rows upon rows.
It’s a rather ingenious way of stacking wood. You start with a circle of logs, end to end. The next few rows get stacked end side in, so that the outer ends lean on the initial circle. The 30 degree angle that’s created causes the wood to slant inward, keeping it stable and keeping the stack tight. It also allows the ends of the wood be exposed to sunlight, which helps them season and dry out.
Once the base ring is created, it leaves a giant opening in the middle – the perfect place to chuck all those oddly shaped pieces that don’t stack very neatly. In turn those pieces provide a sort of support, keeping the outer logs from sliding in as the layers get higher.
Once the stack is about shoulder height, the whole thing is topped off with a conical roof of smaller pieces that shed water to keep the stack dry.
In science, there’s a term called an elegant solution.
It’s a simple, yet beautiful way of solving a problem. It’s a solution where nothing is forced and everything fits. Beautifully, elegantly.
I’ve been thinking about elegant solutions as the intensity of my work is increasing. Life is speeding up – creative life, work life, seasonal life. There are seemingly endless things to do, but there are easier ways of doing them.
In the past, I would have chosen the stressful way. An adrenaline rush. Used the deadline to fuel my progress.
And it would have worked.
Stress is a pretty remarkable way of getting things done. It floods your body with chemicals that allow you to work harder, faster. But it’s not great for your health.
These days, I’m looking for an elegant solution.
Yes, a bit of judicious weeding. There are only so many hours in a day. Yes, a bit of prioritization. Accepting what won’t happen during this flip of the calendar. Yes, a bit of releasing the things that no longer serve me. Doing everything is not a superpower.
But then, taking a creative look at how things might be done differently. A Holzhausen. A way to accomplish something that uses geometry and Mother Nature to its advantage.
Science + art + ease.
I write more about elegant solutions and creative work in Make Something Meaningful: Commission for the Creative Professional.