Day: Standing knee-deep in holes dug for 10-diameter "deadmen," or logs that stabilize the top layer of the retaining wall, watching water pool as the shovels dive deeper.
Night: Sitting on the porch and strumming guitars, pooling our creative energies to compose a half-serious, seven-minute song about how to change to world (You need at least four people; think The Beatles). Jam session extraordinaire. Our band name is "The Lone Wolves," after Elysa Wolf Chao, our crewmember.
Day: Searching the forest for suitable trees to cut for timber steps, settling on two tall, straight white pines. Switching from the best hardwood to the least desirable softwood is frustrating, but necessary, as most of remaining locust is dead, too big, or unsafe to fell.
Night: Sifting through the fascinating farmhouse library and conducting a scavenger hunt for: bird books from every state (17 so far), the oldest book (1831: Architecture of Birds) and the newest book (1996: The Case for Mars: The Plan to Settle the Red Planet and Why We Must). A hollow ostrich egg twice the size of a grapefruit sits above the top shelf.
Day: Seeing a red-tailed hawk swoop across the trail and alight on a nearby snag (dead tree).
Night: Witnessing an earthbound starscape of green lights as fireflies fill the field beyond our tents.
In a necessary dichotomy, we value life but also cut trees. On this hitch, each of the four sawyers (myself included) in our group has felled a tree. Sometimes I struggle with this. To de-stress after a long day on the trail, I either run or write. Since I hurt my knee last hitch and can't run, it's onto writing.
The following is a poem I wrote when I felled my first tree (a hemlock) in the field.
I am not a monk
Waiting patiently for ants
To pass with the rain.
I am the queen bee
Buzz of the chainsaw thorough
In my destruction.
Displaced logs decay
Like memories of the places we love after we leave them
With our relentless caresses
Footfalls like waves creating sand and shifting perspectives.
Mountain laurel makes way for trails and trillium
Flowers are our infinite friends
Whom we know by name.
What do you call roots taut in your hands?
A prayer for every plant and I'd say mantras till Monday.
If karma exists
Is it impartial?
Does it care about sacrifice?
Or only see the value in each life?
I am certain of the unknowable answer.