Thursday, May 20, 2010


Spring has even the dark and shady places in my forest rising up from the mish-mash of fallen branches and last years ferns. The new sword ferns reach upward, all fresh and perfect, their tips still curled as they unfurl. In their midst is the stump of the fir tree that I felled last fall and have converted into neat stacks of firewood, drying for next winter. Dappled light, waist high ferns, piles of firewood and the stump with its erect and jagged hinge.

This tree, almost two feet across, had died of root rot the previous year. If it had been in an inaccessible place I would have left it to rot, to feed the woodpeckers and fall with a whump some stormy winter`s night, but this was right beside the main trail and I needed firewood. I sighted up the trunk to judge which direction it could best be felled, started my chainsaw and notched a V cut on that side and then proceeded carefully with the backcut, driving in wedges as the cut deepened. Dead trees are always a little unpredictable, the leverage weight of living branches a hundred feet up is gone, the interior may be rotten, and if so the all important final hinge of wood that will control the direction of fall may be compromised. I drove the wedges deeper, levering the tree top farther and farther in the direction of fall and eventually gravity took over and, as I grabbed my saw and ran for cover, the mighty trunk crashed to the ground. Dead brittle branches flew through the air, the upper section shattered, - a mighty crash!

But that first part of the fall, so easily missed during my get away, is always the most expressive; as the thin wooden hinge is torn apart it screams, the tree screams as it begins its crash to earth. Silly eh? Its just a tree! But when I see the stump again months later it is the jagged ‘screamer’ that still speaks to me.

No comments: