Prelude to Logging
Anger would have been easier.
But they were so nice, so neighborly. They smiled and joked and told us how quickly it would be done, how light would inundate the meadow, how deer and elk would come, how fast trees grow. They told us that it’s always been this way. Afterward, I mow three nonstop acres of knapweed, bracken, grass, and gopher mounds, my grief exploding in two-foot swaths under the spinning blades, mow around a man-forest of well-spaced apple trees, mow until the sun drops behind the western tree line soon to be stump line, mow until the engine starves and my exhausted hands have choked it all into submission and release the dead handle and sweat-tears beneath my temples cool into streaks of gritty sorrow.
But I am not angry.
Darkness wraps newborn spring in its soft blanket. Light seeping in around loose untucked edges illuminates an earthbound galaxy of four-petaled dogwood stars shining over the collapsed cabin where forty years past Uncle Francis slept forever. They found this funny, too.
Great Horned Owl shouts from a jagged shadow of conifers on the ridge behind, trees I could have been buried under. From the darkening canyons of my mind I see the owl’s pale throat puffing out in utter defiance, dotted eighth-sixteenth-quarter-quarter-quarter. Hoos in four, andante. Or is it a question? Whose? Whose trees casting shades of green wandering from yellow to black and back again? Whose deer mice with small night eyes, rustling in the duff, visible only to owl’s ears? Whose cool tongues of dew-laden air reaching outward from forest to meadow, licking my salty neck with evening, brushing wild iris petals with lavender inscribed in white feathers? Whose deepening memories you found so amusing?
Pygmy Owl answers from the blackness of the creek bottom, a plaintive monotonic “toot,” the sound of the high lead whistle after choker setters scramble and another round of naked trees is drug to the landing to trucks to mill to pallets neatly stacked with blond freshly cut two-by-fours, sticky with kiln-dried tree blood, smelling of sweet turpentine. Sixty for $1.89 each at the two-by-four store framed my shed, finished just before the autumn rains, now filled with a cider press and canning jars, family wages and college funds, private jets and race horses, Our Way of Life and a War on Everything.
Whose? Whose water burbling from the mountain’s cracked heart into a two-gallon pool, tickling the feet of lady ferns, trickling over moss-pillowed rocks into the white porcelain cup holding a half-grown torrent salamander with olive flanks of weathered sandstone, patiently waiting? Returned to the spring, she watches me from water’s edge with dark upturned eyes just breaking the crystalline surface. Is this the face of gratitude? Dipping gently, icy water spills inward leaving Salamander undisturbed as bits of rotting leaf and wood dance in the small current, swirling across brown-beige-yellow-ocher pebbles. Each cold-blooded mouthful slips off my tongue and slithers downward, coming to rest in a cool ball in my center, waiting, yearning to be born as wind on owl wings.
I am not angry.
A prose poem from Blackberries in July: A Forager's Field Guide to Inner Peace.