Wish I'd Said It

Weeds are flowers too - once you get to know them.

- A. A. Milne

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Autumn & Arboreal Appreciation (#203)

Well, I wasn’t fibbing. Hilary and I went to the cottage last week and had a fine time. There’s something to love about every time of year up there but autumn is my favourite. Days are still warm, nights cool and refreshing. The surrounding woods are busy with squirrels, chipmunks, raccoons and birds looking to fatten up before weathering winter’s chill, or heading south ahead of it.

The fishing is generally poor but being bathed in warm, golden September sun while keeping an eye out for eagles and other wildlife makes up for it.

And best of all...the mosquitoes are history. Hallelujah and pass the wieners! I love sitting around a fire in the evening but hordes of skitters make doing so unpleasant in the summer months (unless we get a rare, strongish, on-shore evening breeze).

I can’t think of a finer way to celebrate the passing of a beautiful day than sitting around a fire, sipping a soothing beverage, admiring the stars and listening to loons calling goodnight to each other.

So, I spent a portion of every day gathering firewood for that evening’s fire. This involved trundling up the driveway with a wheelbarrow and sorting through the deadfall which blankets the surrounding forest floor.

Much of the wood is punky, having lain too long against the ground and absorbing too much water but a lot of it is fine. Most of my focus is on birch, maple or oak limbs about as big around as my fist but I also gather a lot of finger-width kindling and a handful of wire-thin twigs for starter fuel.

Some of the pieces of wood are up to 12 feet long. The thinner ones I snap with my hands or across my knee. The thicker ones I prop against the wheelbarrow or tree trunk and break with a kick.

Benny, who rarely lets me out of his sight, no longer accompanies me on these missions. I finally scolded him VERY severely one day a couple of years ago. I got fed up with having to wrestle with him for every single piece of wood I touched. Now, he stays with Hilary when I fetch the wheelbarrow.

It takes about a half-hour to 40 minutes to gather a load of wood that will keep burning for a few hours. A half-hour to 40 minutes of bending, stretching, dragging and stomping. It didn’t used to take so long. But apparently gravity’s gotten stronger over the years, resulting in each piece of wood getting slightly heavier and increased effort being required to straighten up again after bending and lifting. I can only surmise that all the scientists are too darn busy focusing on global warming to notice this new threat.

On my third gathering foray, my lower back started yelling at me. It had muttered a tad the day before but I found it easy enough to tune out -- like when your Significant Other is talking about something non sports-related.

There was no ignoring it this time, though. It went from a dull ache to an ouchy cramp in no time. I needed to rest it somewhere for a minute or three.

A nearby poplar, about as big around as me, was listing at about a 25 degree angle. Chances are, it will join its brethren on the forest floor in 10-15 years. For now though, it still had a goodly grip on the soil. I found I could brace my feet on its protruding roots, skootch down a smidge and lean back against its trunk, easing my discomfort considerably.

Greatly appreciative, I thanked the tree and rested against it. Then I began to consider all that trees do for us.

They provide shelter, food, medicine and protection for animals and man. As if that isn’t enough, while they’re at it, they produce oxygen for the whole planet. We use them to build houses and furniture, to make newspapers and toilet tissue. We gather their broken limbs to warm us and cook food and keep us safe against the things that go bump in the night.

We climb them for adventure, enjoy their shade on hot summer days and string hammocks between their trunks.

And sometimes we lean against them to soothe a sore back.

While doing so, and several times since, I tried to think of another form of life nearly so beneficent to mankind. Couldn’t.

Still can’t.

Have you thanked a tree today?


Unknown said...

One of these days I will have to accompany you guys on your trip to the cabin. It all sounds too nice. Well, if I wasn't intruding :)

Ruth Cooke said...

Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree...

Joyce Kilmer

Thanks for the smile, Frank.

Hilary said...

One of these days, I'm going to talk about something sports related and you're going to miss it. :P

You were too modest to tell your readers what great fires you build. You can trust there'll be a photo of it before too long. Go ahead and tune that out.. they're practically your words! ;)

bobbie said...

Trees are our best friends.

Your header photo is gorgeous.

Thumbelina said...

I am thanking God for the trees and the rest of the stuff on this planet that keeps us alive!

Y'know - that gravity thing. I'd noticed that too. I think maybe you oughta let the scientists in on it. Before too long we'll all be walking bent double and that won't do our backs any good at all. There won't be enough trees for us to rest against...

Charlie said...

Interesting you should mention trees ... we planted 15 little spruce trees along the edges of our yard this year -- okay, the landscaping company did, but I helped by watching appreciatively.

For a few weeks after the planting, they looked rather upset at having been dug up and carted away from their prairie home into the mountains. But pretty soon they looked around and realized what a great view they now have and have perked up immensely.

I'm looking forward to having a nice spruce hedge in the years to come, as long as my back holds out long enough for me to prune them properly. Cheers to trees! :)

Anonymous said...

This post brought to mind the days in high school when I loved on a wooded property. There were few things quite as satisfying as climbing to the highest branches that would hold me in an evergreen, and surveying the woods below.

Then there was the first house we ever built. Walking through the wood framed rooms where eventually the beams would all be covered and imagining what a life we would have in that house.

Trees have brought a comfort to my life I honestly have never considered. Nice post!

Skunkfeathers said...

Been time since I have parked my carc beneath a canopy of stars, warmed by a campfire, nipping at a beverage and listening to the sounds of trees arguing about whether or not they should come over and drop kick me for burning appendages of their brethren.

So in my homesy, folk way, I related a story to the surrounding trees, a story true with witnesses (human, animal and woodological), about how, on a late summers' eve, I went to collect wood for that night's meal. And fell out of a tree, getting firewood.

The forest rocked with laughter, and I was absolved from a sound thrashing by the Brotherhood of the Bark.

Life was good.

Leah J. Utas said...

Frank, I thank the trees all the time. Glad to know you do, too, and that you remind everyone to do it.

Barbara Martin said...

Lovely post on the trees, and fitting to remind others of their giving nature.

As for your aching lower back, you might try a natural tonic I use for mine: a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar and a teaspoon of honey in 8 oz of water, before breakfast, every day. I can pretty much guarantee your aches in the lower back will be gone in a month if not in three. It's good for arthritic and rheumatic joints too.

Frank Baron said...

Ubi, I think we could probably work something out if you find yourself on this side of the pond again. :)

You're welcome, Ruth. Thanks for the visit. :)

Sorry Hil, did you say something? ;)

Thanks bobbie. That picture was taken about 300 yards from my front door and, if I recall correctly, at about this time of year.

Thumbelina, we must make sure there's always enough trees. If you're running low, come on over the pond to your Great White Colony. :)

You paint a nice picture, Charlie. I hope your hedge lives long and prospers. :)

Thanks Meredith. They are very special indeed. I believe there's much to learn from them.

And it still can be, Skunkfeathers. Could be you're about due for an evening under the stars, nestled near a campfire.

Leah, I'm not at all surprised. I've long suspected you're one of nature's disciples - maybe even a priestess. :)

Thank you Barbara. I'll keep that in mind should my back start chronically misbehaving. So far (touch wood) it only seems to bother me when I force it to work. I'll try to minimize that. ;)

Shammickite said...

Does hugging trees count as thanking them?
My 18 month grandson Callum was with me all day yesterday, and we hugged trees in my back yard. And he said TWEEEEE, and kissed the tree.

Midlife Roadtripper said...

"Have you thanked a tree today?"

No, but I will now. And your mosquitos are gone? I think I know where they went. Just worked in my garden and my legs are blazing with itches.

Thanks for a slice from your view.

Thumbelina said...

Frank I'll hobble over just'n soon as I can! (Secret ambition - go to Canada!)

Anonymous said...

I wept when we lost our only tree to the ravages of an ice storm many years ago. As soon as the weather was cooperative, we planted a six-foot live oak in the front yard - the trunk was only as big as my wrist - and now that oak is over 50 feet tall and both of us can't hold hands and reach all the way 'round it. It's the best tree on the block and annually holds the yellow ribbons for the return of our hamlet's soldiers.

But, no, I didn't thank a tree today. I believe I will tomorrow, though... and I'll tell it Frank said 'thanks!', too.

Hi, Frank. :) Miss you around our old campfires.


Frank Baron said...

Sure, Shammy, hugging counts. And good for Callum. :)

Thanks for the visit, Midlife Jobhunter. You must be living a little south of where our cottage is. Doesn't have to be a lot south though, because I still have a few skitters around home and that's a difference of only about 140 miles.

Hope you can realize it someday, Thumbelina. :)

It's great to see you OFG! I miss you and the gang too. Thanks so much for stopping by and telling the story of your oak. I hope you'll visit again soon. :)

Dianne said...

I believe you are the spokesmodel for nature ;)

I talk to the trees in my yard, especially this one little guy who didn't have such a good year but seems happier now

Frank Baron said...

Dianne, you flatter me. There are many thousands of voices out there, singing nature's praises.

I'm the one croaking out of tune. ;)

And I'm sure the tree enjoys the attention. Keep it up. :)

Anne C. Watkins said...

Hope your back's feeling much better. Sure gotta love them trees, huh? :)

Frank Baron said...

Anne, as of this writing, it's 100%. Thanks for asking. :)

However...I'm heading to the cottage again tomorrow and if the rain lets up, I'll be gathering some firewood again....

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