I’m sitting at my desk in front of the window at the cabin, looking out on the laneway and the creek. I am trying to write. I am trying to be present to the All-That-Is. I’m not doing very well. Monkey-mind and an inner voice that tells me it’s all shite after all.
A thunder of rumble and rattle. Ah, they’re here then.
An orange machine-laden truck shudders and judders into sight. with all their noisy, brutal, atrocious equipment, hauling the woodchipper and bucket and chain saws and all that.
They’ve come to prune a tree, a multi-clump basswood with five trunks. Three are dead. We don’t want to take down the whole tree but are worried the deadwood might fall and damage the cabin or our car, especially during the coming storms of winter.
A boy (okay, a young man, but I’m old, so a boy to me) hops down from the cab’s passenger seat. Thin as a willow branch. His pants hanging off his hips. A ring through his nose. Tattoos snaking up his arms and across his neck.
He dips and twirls, his arms elbow-up, his fingers like a puppeteer. What is he doing? He carefully walks behind the truck, across the lane to the barberry bushes and wild rhododendrons by the creek bank. Deposits something on a leaf.
Oh, I think He’s saving something.
What happens in the next two hours doesn’t matter (or maybe it’s all that matters): chainsaws scream and roar and the bucket with the big man in it goes up and down and ropes are tied to dense hunks of wood, and huge, heavy plonk-thuds of dead tree parts fall. The horror of the wood-chipper, relentless and starving, surrounded by the witness of living trees. The saw and cut and hang drop and THUNK onto the earth – so close to the boy standing under the tree where he’s been told to stand—the earth shakes. I am afraid for him. I turn away, unable to watch. Fragile. Unlikely to thrive. Unlikely, perhaps to survive.
And then, well, it’s over and this boy is blowing leaves, with thoroughness and care and I think, it can’t be just that, all the worry I have for the boy nor the grief I have about that dying tree, the demise of which we’ve only postponed with this amputation. Same as with any dying thing or person, I suppose. And we all are dying, aren’t we?
But something more, surely, or am I being too sentimental? Maybe, but still…
And so I stand on the porch and call the boy to me.
He looks so puzzled. Does no one ever talk to him? Yes, you. Please. You.
I saw you… carrying, …oh, this isn’t quite right, but walking something, …. On a thread… saving something… I saw it.
And I feel so old and stupid… but … he cocks his head and grins a little. He is missing some teeth… you mean you saw…
Yes, when you pulled up, before you started working. You were saving something…
Huh, he says, it was an inchworm.
I thought it might be a spider and her thread.
No, an inchworm. He looks equal parts sheepish and proud. I believe everything deserves a chance at life, he says.
You are my hero, I tell him. My hero.
He grins again, says nah, and goes right on back to work.
This is not fiction. This is the marvel of the world.