Facing Down the Apocalypse III: One Piece of Firewood at a Time
Of course a wet cold Spring would be waiting at the edge of time. Morning overcast is locked against Sun like an iron door. I try to meditate, wishing the drizzle would dampen those whirling sparks that pass for thinking. I enforce ten long breaths, then give it up. Some of us ended up wired for motion.
Mom rides out the apocalypse in my childhood home perched on an ancient erosional terrace above the McKenzie River. Last fall one brother pulled several storm-toppled trees off the hillside into her pasture. This morning another brother and I meet to continue the process of converting logs into heat. I fall in love with his chainsaw. The throaty roar of that Husky carving off rounds and spitting soft piles of sawdust at my feet is downright sexy. I cheat on my saw, promise it’s only for this morning.
He fires up his hydraulic wood splitter. More noise. One friend told me hydraulics are a gift from the gods. I used to think he was joking. The gods may be dangling us by our feet over the precipice of the world, but they have not left us powerless.
Downpour becomes relentless. All of the logs are bucked, so we both run the splitter. Here at the edge of the world, I keep hoping for transformation. I want to believe there is some helpful truth to two-cycle exhaust and sawdust creeping into my shirt and pain creeping into my forearms and the turpentine smell of cut fir and growing heaps of angular splits and busting my ass with my brother who is way better at ass-busting than I am. But when I look for that larger perspective, all I find is a downpour day washing brown rivulets off the pasture toward a river running over the edge of everything we know.
We break for lunch with Mom. She is very happy.
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Last evening I dropped a tree over the edge of the world as I know it. The Douglas-fir died in exactly the spot I directed, sent there with a chainsaw and hand-winch. I am not an expert feller of trees, although decades ago I did make my living dropping lodgepole pine around what then were million-dollar homes.
On the front porch of the Johnny Gunter place, I ride the incoming swell of nightfall. The last logging rigs rumbled out of the valley two hours ago. A single robin chirrups from the meadow growing April green before me. Wind from the west draws an iron overcast across the evening sky.
There sure is a lot of sex at the end of the world as I thought I knew it. After a socially distant run on the chip trail, I finish with a sweaty stroll through the neighborhood park, pausing on a footbridge across the small creek. The air has become a breathing thing, ribs of willow and cottonwood exhaling …