Redwood Souls

(a sawyer’s insight)

The father had some questions,
the mother’s smile, pretty with interest,
listened while the daughter hid behind,
sharing her face from time to time.
Our need was to divert the runoff
from the wooded hill behind
their home, whose basement
flooded every winter.

We felled two dozen redwoods,
each close to three feet thick,
once reaching high enough
to capture fog and salty air.
Taking homes from owls,
eagles, hawks, cougars,
bobcats, foxes & raccoons,
left me stunned with sorrow.
I knew we had a job to do,
designed to protect the
family home from nature’s
continued resistance,
but at what cost?

As a sawyer my job was to mill:
after bucking these magnificent trees
into twenty foot logs, then
milling them into lumber in order
to build a three hundred foot long
retaining wall a minimum of
three feet in height, using full dimension
two-by-twelves and six-by-sixes.

At first the task seemed straight
forward: leveling and aligning
the mill parallel to a two-story
pyramid of logs backed up
to the forest. However,
as I began to unwrap
these beautiful cylinders,
the richness of the grain
became a beacon of colors
from yellow-gold to rose-pink
to blood-red all glistening with life
and I began to weep.
I was struck by the outrage
of the forest at having
to witness my filleting
their brothers and sisters.
(Redwoods are known for
growing in “families”.)

I walked to the edge
of the fading green swale
and knelt, asking forgiveness
and giving thanks for
their majestic bounty.
Each day as I crossed
that marshy meadow
I greeted the woods
asking for their blessing
and forgiveness.

On the days I worked alone
I felt the forest’s presence,
as if including and allowing
me and my thoughts.
I was comforted by
the apparent wisdom
garnered over time
by these gentle giants.

The noise of the mill
kept the animals at bay
but when I stopped
for lunch, in the quiet,
I could hear the breath
of the woods and the
sotto voce’s crescendo
into a full-voiced symphony.
From the buzz of the bugs
to the chee of the red-tail hawks,
the woodpeckers’ percussion,
the chatter of the blue jays.
and the chitter of the
squirrels and chip-monks,
I had the privilege of an
organic orchestra
with my lunch.

The woods began at
the base of the incline and
served as a natural divide
for the wall and “French drain”.
The runoff from the hill
that caused the flooding
we hoped to capture and
divert into that drain.
The finished wall began
well past the rear of the house,
ran to the edge of the swale
and in places ran to a
height of five feet.

I cherish my recollections
of that job for several reasons:
the family for whom I worked,
the hard physical labor
my body gifted me and
my sacred relationship
with the redwoods, I can
look back, give thanks
and say “well done”.

embi 8/9/14

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