I has an odd night of fragmented dreams but at least I was sleeping. I had worked myself into a state of exhaustion and soreness trying to take down part of a tree with an axe and I thought I did very well indeed. There’s something to be said about the sort of exhaustion that comes with hard work. Saturday, I spent the day at work trying to tie down the end of the month stuff and when I got home I was totally spent emotionally and mentally. It’s hard to get into the shower and wash that away. But spend quality time with some hand tools and I promise that when you finally do get into the shower, sweat, dirt, and maybe a little blood will be all that needs to be cleansed from your soul.
I was tired, really and truly and honestly tired when I woke up this morning but my body felt ready. I had done some Yoga exercises after cutting the tree down and I felt like I could at the very least get the largest piece moved. That sort of thing doesn’t daunt me at all even though I don’t own a tractor and can’t lay hands on one on a bet. If I had to bet I would guess the biggest piece of wood weighs at least seven or eight hundred pounds. That sounds big and heavy but the Laws Of Physics tells me quite a few things about this mass. It tells me that if I can get a lever under it I can move it. It tells me that if I can get a roller under it I can move it. It tells me that if I can get the piece unbalanced I can rock it, tilt it, turn it, and sometimes even spin it around. I’m a very small mammal in a very large world. But there are Laws.
The trick to cutting wood is to cut chunks of woods not pie or wedge shaped pieces. As you cut you’re going to eventually wind up with that sharp angle cut but save yourself some very hard work and begin opening up the cut wide, not narrow. If you go too skinny too soon you’ll wind up with this ravine in the wood when you ought to have a canyon. It look like it’s a lot more work but it isn’t. Also, learn to sharpen an axe and do not be afraid to stop and take the time to sharpen it when you’re cutting. A sharp axe is half the battle. Sitting down with some water and a sharpening tool is a great time to recover from what is really hard work.
Everyone likes their meat with some salt on it and the insects of Hickory Head are no exception. I’ve got a dozen bites in two days and the two on the front left side of my neck look like I was bitten by vampire yellow flies. There’s more than a few welts on my hands and of course there are those obligatory bites at the beltline that leave a maddening itch. Benadryl gel is a magical thing that soothes all bites and stings. But while working in the woods the insects are the toll keepers. Any anti-insect spray is swept away by the rising salt water tide of sweat and heat. They are there like medical students, taking blood samples, giving injections, inspecting the body and all the while feasting on flesh that will take part of the woods away, leaving a bare spot where a tree once stood.
The tree is hollow and rotted down the main branch that fell. I’m pretty sure that if this year had not felled it the next would have. Many years ago, so many I cannot remember how old I was, only that I was very small, there was a tree, a giant Oak, a sprawling and towering creature that seemed unearthly to me. We would only pass the tree on the way to my grandmother’s house and each time the tree was there, timeless and eternal, as if it were some sentinel watching over travelers. One day as we passed the tree it lay split into two pieces as if a giant knife had rendered it. From that point on each trip saw the tree diminished a little more as it returned slowly to the earth. I’m not sure I could find the spot where the tree once stood. I wonder how many others remembered that tree and mourned its death as I did.
I’m always surprised at how well built trees are. There’s solid wood there, tough and rigid, but the limbs are alive and springy, the leaves are as fragile as paper, and the bark as rough as, well, bark. From an engineering point of view there are vast arrays of solar collectors that reach into the sky so very slowly getting higher each year but with the inevitability of falling rain. Higher and higher the branches go, the limbs grow thicker, some break, some are broken, but the trees reach ever higher still, and spread out even wider until one day a small child will arrive and wonder at the magnificence of that tree.
Large or small, young or old, Oak or pine, living or dead, all of the trees I live with leave me with that sense of wonder still. The pine tree in the back of the property is like a column of scaly life that soars above all other trees in the area, slender and curvy. There are Oaks whose branches are equally curved but they more resemble dancers than statues. There are tiny saplings and young trees who are just arriving at the height above my head now, some of them not yet sprouted when I arrived here. I once looked down to avoid stepping upon them as they were still half out of the acorn but now they look down as I walk through their shade. One day, perhaps, there will be trees looking down upon my body as it is lowered into a simple hole in the ground. I wish to return to the Earth from which I came, and I hope to reborn a tree.