Friday, December 17, 2004


Family Tree, Part 3 (Being A Series Of Random Anecdotes)

All photos copyright 2004 by

My dad doesn't like to cut a young tree. We pass fields of beautiful 6- and 10-foot tall trees. These trees would bring $50 each and more on the streets of Boston or any big city this holiday season; but Dad moves right past them; or to be more precise, right over them. He marches on, and always his eyes are turned upward, to the tops of the bigger, older trees, ones growing close together, too close.

"You can tell by lookin at em," he says. "They don't look so good at ground level. Only up top where they can breathe. These are trees you want to thin out. Because eventually, one or more'll fall over and crush the younger ones, won't give em a chance to grow. That's bad for these woods." When he finds the right tree, he'll fell it, and cut it into firewood, except for the very top of the tree. That, he'll lop off in one 6- or 10-foot length. And that will be our Christmas tree.

Suddenly he stops again. I freeze, straining my ears, listening for the moose.

I close my eyes to open my ears. In this era, it's sometimes hard to believe there are still places so remote that the sound of cars and planes cannot touch you. But it is not a quiet place. You can hear snow fall, if you listen for it. And always, above you, the voice of the wind in the boughs, a perfect white noise that both slows my pulse and quickens my heart. It's the most peaceful sound I know. And then, to my left, I hear the faintest crump of something in the woods and my eyes snap open.

"I think I hear it!" I hiss.

My dad looks at me, blinks twice. "I don't know what in hell you're yammerin about." He points up. "I stopped because that there is our tree."

I have never cut down my own Christmas tree before. So I heft my axe and step up. With a mighty swing, the axe falls, and bounces back off the tree, the blunt end almost smacking me between the eyes. I slide to the ground with a grunt of surprise. Dad is laughing. "Amazing how an axe just bounces right off cold wood, ain't it?" he says.

With a practiced flip, he takes the chainsaw off his shoulder. "By Gorry, I do like to live the old-fashioned way," he says. "I like to kill my own meat, build my own home; and I ain't above havin a shit in the woods now and then as the urge strikes me." He pats the chainsaw. "But every so often there's something nice about fallin back on modrin technology." He continues in this vein, but the rest is lost in a proud roar...


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