Simple pleasure from a simple-minded activity:
The blows that a life of self-control
Spares to strike for the common good,
That day, giving a loose my soul,
I spent on the unimportant wood.
From Robert Frost’s “Two Tramps in Mudtime”
A recent storm deposited a butternut hickory across one of our trails. As hickories go, it was a juvenile – about 25 feet tall, fully leafed out and heavy with nuts. We were surprised that such a tree would go over in a moderate wind. Closer inspection showed that even thought upper sections were solid, the base of the trunk was completely hollow. Nature, as usual, knew what she was doing.
It was an excellent example of the proverbial ill wind that blows nobody good: The tree was perfect for firewood with a straight trunk and as big around as a basketball at its base. On top of that, it was easy to get to. So, chain sawing began.
Under the heading that the trouble with life is one thing always leads to another, the tree had been growing at the top of a steep rise above a creek, so predictably one good log when cut rolled down the hill. When I went for it, I found two huge highly invasive bush honeysuckles. So, I went back up the hill and slid down with the chain saw and stump killer. Having dispatched the honeysuckles and not wanting to waste a good slide down a steep bank, I thought I’d look around down there and found a couple of osage orange trees, known locally as hedge apples and known to me personally as the devil’s favorite tree. So, I took care of them and, bettering Sysiphus, got the log back up the hill.
But I seriously digress.
You’d think I never had felt before
The weight of an ax-head poised aloft,
The grip of earth on outspread feet,
The life of muscles rocking soft
And smooth and moist in vernal heat.
More from Robert Frost’s “Two Tramps in Mudtime”
Having cut the tree into usable logs, I chose a big one as a chopping block, stood a smaller one on top of it and tried the maul. The hickory split like a dream, totally different from dense osage orange wood which laughs off even a solid whack of the maul. A blow or two with the maul split hickory logs a foot across and twenty inches long with a sound so satisfying that I can only compare it to the clatter of bowling pins that comes with a strike.
Stacking fire wood for the winter of 2016, I recalled fondly my Aunt Gladys who died at 96. She made wonderful gooseberry jam. When she was 92 or so, she had my ever-gracious brother-in-law Steve plant a gooseberry bush in her back yard, knowing that it would take two years to bear fruit. Optimism is necessary for longevity and makes it worthwhile.
But I digress (again). . .