This week, Allyson was away for a personal growth retreat, so I was home alone to live the bachelor life of walking around in my boxers and eating cheetos on the couch while watching lots of sports and Transformer movies. Unfortunately, it’s hard to feel much like a crazy bachelor when you have to get up at 4am for work and therefore have to go to bed about 8 each night. The closest I came to being a wild and crazy dude all alone was eating bratwursts for a few meals. Yeah, I know, slow down right.
The heat and humidity returned this week and made several afternoons pretty uncomfortable, though the first half of the week was pretty pleasant in the evenings. It was cool enough at night that I turned off the A/C and opened up the windows. On a night or two, I even felt a little chilly towards dawn. On one particular night, I heard a large crash felt assured my cat Shylock had been snooping on a counter-top and knocked a bunch of stuff on the floor with her 15 lbs of cat momentum that waits for no knick-knack. Later that morning, I woke with her sitting right next to me.
Throughout the morning, I searched for what she had knocked over and couldn’t find anything out of place in any room. It had become quite the mystery. When I went outside, I realized that the large maple tree in our back yard had dropped a branch about 25 feet long with a diameter of about 10 inches at its girthiest. Fortunately, the only thing that got in its way was a clothes line, which we can easily tie together, but its raised concerns about the branches that grow near the roof of our house. This tree is enormous at the trunk, it would be difficult for two people to wrap their arms around it, but at some point a large section of it split, allowing all sorts of insects to bore into it. The branch that fell had ants burrowing all through the heartwood, and we fear if they aren’t already in the other branches, they’ll get there.
This brings up difficult, sad decisions for this tree. The branches near our roof will almost certainly come down, but there is also talk of just cutting this tree down altogether. It is a very, very old tree, and at one time its canopy shaded the entire yard. To lose this tree will drastically change what our yard looks like, making it much sunnier and much hotter. Logic will pretty surely win out here, but it won’t make the idealistic side ache any less.
Since Allyson had the car all week, I used my bike for a great deal of transportation around Murray. I got groceries, went to the post office, and visited a church I was scheduled to video, among other things. I probably logged about 30 miles this week, which is nothing to brag about, but coupled with the heat and humidity, this did make me a sweaty mess. One aspect I love from the summer is how fantastic a cold shower feels at the end of a hot sweaty day. The cold shower appeals to me in several ways: (1) it appeases the environmentalist in my who doesn’t want to waste energy on hot water, (2) it makes me feel like a big man, (3) it reminds me of times when I hiked or canoed to a waterfall and stood under it’s stream, and (4) it feels great on a hot day once your body gets past the shock of the coldness. During the winter, the hippie in me wants to keep up with it, buts it’s a huge challenge when the air is already so cold. The summer just begs for it, though.
Since there was a giant branch in the yard, I borrowed a chain-saw from Allyson’s dad to cut it into manageable pieces and had him stay over while I climbed the tree to prune out another sizable dead branch that had not fallen. I have done lots of tree pruning with a simple hand saw, but never work with a chain-saw. This is work for the big boys. First, you have to be pretty stout to wield a chainsaw in a tree. Second, you have to have great balance, so you don’t fall while the chainsaw is running. Third, you have to make sure every important thing (your rope, your leg, your arm) is out of the way of the chainsaw as you cut. Fourth, you have to make sure the branch falls away from you and doesn’t swing around and hit you. It’s a tenuous situation, but I was very cautious and managed to drop a pretty big branch that would have taken me many, many hours and lots of soreness to cut with a hand saw.
Afterwards, I cut all the branches on the ground into log worthy of bonfires and fireplaces. Sawdust spewed all over me, getting into my shoes and socks, sticking to my sweaty legs and arms. My clothes were soaked through with sweat. There were thunderclouds approaching and rumbles in the distance. I could feel big drops of rain falling slow and sporadic, but I knew it wouldn’t be that way for long. I worked quickly, trying to finish, and I did. By the time I was done, I couldn’t tell if it was still raining, or if it was just my sweat. The cold shower awaited, and it felt like something I was made for. I can imagine ancient men feeling this way. After a long journey, being covered in dirt and sweat, coming upon a cool stream and just soaking in it. Letting all the soreness and pain, even all the sadness and fear be rinsed and chilled by that cold water.
On Saturday, when Allyson came home, I could feel myself getting anxious. I looked out the window at the sound of each car, hoping to see our Silver Honda Civic. When she pulled up, and walked out to greet her with that peaceful relief you have, when something you feel made for washes over you. We hugged for a long time in our driveway, and it entered my mind what people must think who were passing by. Did they pay attention? Did they concoct a story as to why we stood there locked in a hug? I definitely would think about these things if I were the passer-by.
It is a strange life we live, a strange set of stories going on all around us wherever we go. Somewhere a storm is rolling in right now, somewhere a tree is falling. Will anyone hear it? Will a lone traveler pass through later and wonder to himself what it must of looked like, what it must have sounded like? What was it that finally brought down this old sage? What could I do to bring honor to this thing that has lived longer than me? We are drawn to many curiosities in our travels. There is so much to connect to out there if we are looking, if we are listening. Then there are the moments we will remember forever, when we come upon the cold clear water and it makes us feel whole again, when we find ourselves in the arms of the ones who know us like we know ourselves, and we know our rest will be lighter.