Impermanence

Time flies-crawls as we set up our homestead. Each day is so packed it feels like seven. But we’ve been here over a month and it feels like yesterday that we moved in.

It finally feels like the emergencies are taken care of and, while it’s nice not to feel boxed in by panic, one suddenly has the free mental capacity to realize just how large an endeavor we’ve committed to. Sometimes panic might seem preferable…

Each accomplishment, no matter how small, gives way to a plethora of tasks that yet need doing. Long ago on the Ambling Full Tilt journey we both dreamed of how lovely it would be to have our first day when the only thing that needed doing was the day’s chores. We knew that day was a long ways off even back then. Now  we’re much closer to that day but I still can’t predict when it might come with any strong feeling of certainty. Three years? Five years?

As the AFT trip wrapped up and we settled into the arduous six-month search for home. As the drudgery of the land search tested our resolve I’d often say “Imagine the day when all we have to do is face each day’s challenges as we set up the farm.” It sounded heavenly. And now here we are. What an accomplishment to actually reach this point! It’s not disheartening to recognize that by taking these steps the hardest work I’ve ever done is forecast for years into the future. But some days I do wish it could be just a smidge easier.

I’ve had to take it “easy” for almost a couple weeks now by lightly wielding a pick axe and  gingerly putting a death grip on sink drain jam nuts. After digging the compost cover material bin pallets in via the mini pick axe a week or two ago my arms complained – in a big way that they are not wont to do. But I know how my body talks.

When I attempted to hike the JMT with my brother and wife two years ago we only hiked for nine days before having to bail because of altitude sickness. After that my right big toe was numb for three months. The same numbness (and worse) happened to my arms with the work on the homestead…

I woke up in excruciating pain one night and ended up not sleeping because the circulation in my arms was so poor I had to hold everything “just so” to keep the blood flowing. I didn’t sleep well at all for several nights because of this. That’s when I went on “light duty” which was still far more demanding than almost anything I’ve done in the past year or so. I was afraid of developing RMI/RSI and even nerve damage as I’ve come dangerously close to carpal tunnel syndrome before. But things still need to get done around the place!

Thankfully with careful planning, Dani’s constant willingness to jump in, and methodical intention, I’ve staved off two arm fulls of permanent nerve damage and now I’m just trying to manage the wear and tear on my right wrist. My right hand is constantly in pins-and-needles. We’ve had to replace one sink, two faucets, two drains, build a big sieve, dig and pick axe our new 100 sq ft raised garden bed, then build the frame and then move several cubic yards of rock, gravel, dirt and compost using only 1.5 shovels and one wheelbarrow.

The wrist is doing okay, but it could be better. I’m just trying to give it enough downtime to merely prevent carpal tunnel from actually developing. I’m intentionally trying to do everything I can left handed, which is very awkward. Life is constantly on the move and we do our best to move in step.

Our Facebook page has a banner picture of the sunset sky over our land. In the lower left you can see a giant pine in the distance that we call Bonsai and love dearly. He is featured prominently in any picture of our land facing west.

This morning as we were making coffee after having done the morning’s garden chores a work crew showed up at the neighbor’s place and chainsaw began caterwauling it’s unfamiliar note through our usually-quiet neighborhood. After some time we heard the unmistakable crack when a bole folds over itself and both of our eyes shot to the window.

Our mouths fell agape as out of all the trees on our “tree horizon” Mr. Bonsai buckled and fell from view. Both our hearts dropped into the pits of our stomachs. Bonsai was almost the first landmark we named as we moved in. We have a dozen or more very sick or dead trees on our property that we need to drop. Bonsai was a pinnacle above that chaos. A majestic, sagely pine that we fell in love with instantly.

He cracked and tumbled and fell from view.

We were dumbstruck. We were heartbroken.

I turned from the scene and went back to my morning dish washing. It was the only thing I could think to do. I was fairly confident Bonsai was actually on our property, though I knew it bordered with our neighbors (it bordered their driveway, in fact). How could our most beloved tree – and one that was on our property be cut down without our consent? My mind reeled, so I washed the dishes.

Neither Dani or I spoke for some time. When I was done with the dishes she had published a very short commentary on Facebook. I read it and nodded. We both then cried for a bit.

“It’s like watching someone you love getting shot.” Dani offered quietly. I agreed. Yet we had to move on with all the day’s work.

There is a hollow in our woods where Mr. Bonsai once stood. The late afternoon sun casts a very conspicuous golden hue in that nook of the dense, green growth. After breaking our backs building our largest raised bed to date, we called it a day. Dani went in to take a quick shower and launch into dinner prep as I cleaned up outside and put everything away.

When I was done cleaning up the day’s work area, I had to walk over to Bonsai’s remains to try to figure out why this touchstone of our new lives had been removed by powers that – not only did I not have control over – I wasn’t even aware of them operating.

I found that majestic giant dropped and bucked in a most brutish fashion; the portion of the bole dropped over my neighbor’s driveway was hacked out as quickly as possible and rolled off the road. It left the shattered stump on one side of the driveway and the main body smashed through the woods on the other side. His reaching, green limbs were bombs that decimated all the younger growth in the path of his fall from the heavens.

I learned what I wanted to know: Bonsai had apparently started dying at the base of the trunk. The dying  had led to the point of a large amount of rot on the downhill side of the trunk even though his crown was emerald green. No doubt a human-sized chunk of rot at the base of a giant pine (that was probably four feet thick at the base) would be disconcerting. And since the rot was on the lean side, which was the same side that went across the driveway and through the local service power line and the telephone line…

I’m sure Bonsai could have stood for two or three years with no problem, but it would have come down sooner rather than later. So our neighbors  opted to have him dropped.

One of the first things that touched our hearts and told us we were home was this tree. I patted the enormous bucked pieces of trunk now scattered to the sides of the driveway, oozing pints of sap all over the ground… Bonsai was on his way out, but he was still very much alive when then cut him down.

“I’m sorry, friend. We’ll miss you.” was all I could say as I grew misty-eyed and began the long walk back to the house.

Life IS impermanence. We all live. We all die. The self is an illusion. The pattern goes ever onward.

But sometimes it hurts.

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2 thoughts on “Impermanence

  1. Quoting Eladia: “That’s why they call it ‘Life’ “.

    The 90 foot firs that line my driveway were planted by me 25 years ago and cost 25 cents each.
    If that area of your land is in shade, consider planting Hemlock, or Cedar, both of which are shade tolerant.

    Twenty five years will come and go too quickly.

    Namaste,

    Marcel

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    • Sorry for the late reply. We’ve been stretched a little thing these days. I can imagine in retrospect how quickly 25 years can fly. Right now I would have been a little shy of 15. 1991 was an amazing summer. I flew to England by myself at 14 and lived of various relatives for a month before coming home. A treat from my parents for getting good grades. I can say time has not flown retrospectively, but I feel as though I’ve rebooted my life a dozen or more times since then.

      As 40 draws VERY near (about three weeks out) I FINALLY feel like I’m settling into my groove. Of course one never stops growing and changing. But I don’t think any drastic changes are ahead… Just a gradual, detailed refinement of the me that’s here now. Maybe the next 25 years will blow by more quickly because of that. Paul McCartney’s words from When I’m Sixty Four have rang through my head with much more import in the past three or so years. In 25 years I will be exactly 64. It’s said Paul wrote that song when he was 16. The recording we all know and love was when he was only 24.

      I’ve said it a million times: maybe I’m a late bloomer.

      Regardless, thank you for the tip. Although that patch of land I think is technically ours (I would have to hire a survey crew to verify) it is on the border of the neighbors’ driveway and the sit on 60 acres of forest. We’ll let nature take it’s course and tend the one big pine in our lot with care.

      Many more plantings will occur as well and nature will takes its course with them and ourselves.

      Namaste to you, my friend!

      Like

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