Saturday, November 3, 2012

Still Life With Robin: I'm a Lumberjack & I'm Okay

Photo by Kallerna

by Peggy Robin

Many, many years ago --how many, I couldn't say-- I was buying garden tools and on some odd impulse, I bought a pruning saw. While I can't recall what year it is, I do recall my reasoning: Sooner or later the big, elderly silver maple standing in front of my house is going to shed a branch in a storm, and that branch is going to need to be cut up. If it's a small enough, I can just break it up with my hands. If it's a huge branch, I will need to call a guy with a chain saw. But what if the fallen branch should be the size just in-between? I should be prepared. And here is this light little pruning saw that looks like it just might be the perfect tool to have on hand. And it's on sale. So I bought it, brought it home, and stored it away on a shelf in a corner basement, unopened in its packaging, all but forgotten, lo these many years.

Then came Hurricane Sandy. The skies darkened and the wind rattled the windows. I know, because I was sitting at my desk just behind one of the draftiest ones in the house. All at once I heard an ominous cracking sound. I looked up at the tree and saw the branch breaking off and then falling from up high, but it did not make it all the way to the ground. Instead it bounced, in a somewhat cartoonish way, down to a lower branch, where it hooked on by one of its smaller, twiggy sub-branches, leaving the weight of the main limb dangling as if from a thin thread.

For the next several hours, the broken tree limb swayed back and forth in the wind, caught –but not securely held—in the branches, not far above the porch roof. I knew at some point the wind would succeed in unhooking it, and it would crash onto the porch roof. I could't watch any more, and went to bed.

In the middle of the night I heard a THWUMP and felt the house shake. The limb was down. But the window had not broken and the gutter hadn't fallen off. A lucky break – literally! In the morning, it was still rainy and windy, but safe to go outside and see what had come down, and what I could do about it.

Luck after luck: A long twig-like extension of the branch was hanging down over the side of the porch roof, within arm's reach. It was possible for a short person (that's me) to grab one end and tug on it gently to pull the entire branch down from the roof, where it crashed harmlesslessly onto the stone walkway in front of the house. Now there was a twelve-foot multi-branched piece of a silver maple tree lying in the walkway.  I knew the city would haul away the debris, but only if it could be cut into lengths of less than four feet each. The branch was too thick to be broken by jumping on it or cracking it over a knee. But not worth the time and expense to hire a tree guy to cut it up for me. And then I remembered, as if in a dream, that I had planned for just such a contingency. I ran down to the basement, and there was this cute little hand-saw, still pristine in its unopened packaging.

I had never sawed anything before in my life, but I have seen Paul Bunyan in various fictional versions. In a short time I had created three different four-foot lengths, as well as a respectable pile of twigs to use as kindling. If I'd been inclined to put in more effort, I could have created two-foot lengths and saved all the logs to burn in the fireplace, but as I'd already managed to meet the city's pick-up requirement, without sawing off any essential body parts, I figured I'd better quit while I was ahead. I was not singing as I worked, in retrospect, I should have belted out the immortal "Lumberjack Song" from Monty Python:


Still Life With Robin is published on the Cleveland Park Listserv,, and on All Life Is Local on Saturdays.

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