Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Cutting Wood

The recent storm brought down a large oak limb in our backyard.  I could see it there Sunday night, hanging against the tree, not quite down but waiting to plunge.  It was still raining, so I moved it in rank of importance to the back of my mind.

Last night after I arrived home I saw it there, laying flat on the ground.  Everyone else was out to dinner and I was looking forward to some quiet time alone - but the branch kept catching my eye every time I looked out the window.  Finally I sighed and got up to go out, promising myself I'd only do some and finish the rest later.

Cutting branches - or even wood - here in New Home is certainly different from before.  I don't have access to the array of tools from my parents or friends, only what we brought out here.  So armed with only my brush cutters and my saw, I dragged the trash can out.

The weather was not as hot as it could have been, but the humidity from the recent storm hung like a reminder on everything as I looked at the branches.  It was resting  pretty firmly on the ground, so the chances of flipping over on me were low.  Grabbing my cutters, I started to work.

My procedure, when cutting branches like this, is to start by trimming off the end and minor twigs until I get to main lines only.  From there, it's a pretty simple task to cut them into forearm long lengths for burning.

When cutting, one gets into a rhythm:  Trim.  Dispose.  Saw.  Check balance of the limb.  Start on the next section.  Repeat.

The heat was not overbearing but was a little oppressive.  As I trimmed and started to cut, I suddenly realized I was committed at this point with the semi-convincing tale of "It's less than it actually looks."

I am my father's son in at least one sense:  I can keep a branch well balanced, not having it roll on me as I trim and cut lengths until I'm ready to move it.  I'm not sure that such a thing as wood cutting can be genetic, but then again maybe passive learning is more effective than I think.

The evening was quiet, the bulk of people and their pets still indoors from the heat and humidity of the day.  All that sounded were the snap of cutters, the crunching of branches being thrust down, and the brittle sound of the saw biting deep into the wood.  Above me from time to time doves quarrelled, apparently concerned that someone was near enough to their food source that flying down was risky and looking for volunteers to test the waters.

The last pieces are always the hardest to cut, both for their size (width of my upper arm at the end of the branch) as well as the balance.  Here again that genetic wood cutting helped:  with a skill I can't quite explain, I was able to balance and cut and joints and keep the rest of the limb balanced while I worked.

With the last cut and the "Thunk" of the wood falling, down, it was time to clean up:  cutters and saw to the garage, garbage can to the side of the house, cut wood into the recycling bin to be stacked by the side of the house.  The seemingly giant task had taken a little over an hour. 

As I stood under the porch and sucked down the cold ice water from a profusely sweating cup, I realized that once again I had managed to have a moment.  Once again, I had managed to lose myself in the task and hand.  Time flew, work was accomplished, and I was still here, shirt damp with the sweat of a humorless humidity but alive.

It is moments like these that remind one of the dignity and the greatness of work - true work, done with both body and mind, done with a task at hand, leaving an accomplishment that will be of use to somebody. 

Would that we could do this sort of work always. 

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