Harvest of woods

What I love best is the silence -- confirmed only by the delicate rasping of the bucksaw. The rest follows: the soothing presence of dank leaves and danker earth as my blade sinks deeper into the cut; perfume of cherry, tang of oak; the push/pull, push/pull of the work itself. But most important is the chain-sawless absence of noise. How else to hear the "who," "who," of the doves , the chirps and tweeterings of sparrow and chickadee? And what of the great groanings of the wind-swayed trees?

I cut the trunks into sections and carry them to the road. They will form a pile near the house. Tow or three times a year my sons and I reduce these crisscrossed logs, this tangle of timber, to stacks of firewood. We work against time, the three of us; against the setting of the sun, equipment failure , the hazards of the task. At last, our ears ringing, cloaked in darkness, we stagger into the warmth and brightness of the hearth-house. Burning!Burning! Burning! The logs burn bright!

Resting, I lean back against the felled tree and follow the tattered "V" of geese against the sky. Dim, their honking; plaintive, their cry -- as if tired of sun chasing. I get to my knees and try the log. Shoulder-balanced, it glides through woods that are filled with light now fading; early winter light that holds each trunk, each limb, in patinaed silhouette. Fronds of locust brush the sky. The smooth-armed maples glow. I drop my load and return for more. The light alters quickly in this Northern clime. Soon we are in shadow, only the hills ablaze.

An irate pheasant comes in to roost, reminding me that it is time to go. The curve of distant earth is a whaleback hump against a wine-dark sea of sky. Pin pricks of stars: a lambent, climbing moon. The earth, the skies, are still. I stand there for a moment, as silent as a tree, hardly breathing. Bending, at last, I pick up the saw and uproot myself toward the road. The wood must be trucked, the home fires burned.

The harvest of the wood. The richer harvest of the woods themselves.

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