A Walk in the Woods

By Lars Erickson
A Break
I decided to take a break from my life, which is kind of like one long break anyway. I happen to have my own woods, only our woods are more like a Dr.Seuss type of woods. Just a couple acres of funny looking trees which have grown up and fallen over onto other trees, growing up misshapen and deformed.

There was one branch that fell onto another tree, actually several, that caused the tree to grow onto itself. I guess I just want to get the larger logs to lay more on the forest floor so that they can decompose faster and make a nicer place to walk.

So I have been seeing this large branch deforming this defenseless tree for years. I try every time to push it out, but it is pretty heavy. I tried the other day and my daughters acted like I was some kind of grandpa, "Get out of the tree dad, before you hurt yourself!". I could hear the fear in their voices.

So today I am bringing a bowsaw. Yes, today I will set the little tree free. Due to a violent windstorm, several large dead trees have fallen on unsuspecting smaller trees. I am going to help them as well if I can.

The large oak branch was wedged vertically in the, now deformed, crotch of the living younger tree. I tried sawing through it. I think I may need to sharpen my saw. I climbed up about eight or ten feet. Sawing from above, I didn't want to get knocked off if the branch suddenly fell.

This is a workout, I thought, noticing I was getting wet with sweat, an upper-body workout. Still, the giant branch is suspended and not willing to fall. It has been decaying for years, yet it has the inherent strength of oak. I decide to climb partway down.

As I am stepping on the dead branch's shoulder like footholds, I feel the danger. Immediately I am about 4 feet lower and in a lot of pain. I was like some kind of prehistoric fireman, sliding down a dead branch pole. Clamping it, scraping my knees and chest, with no thought, just pure instinct.

'You're going down', I said, out loud, to the branch, who did not answer, luckily. After hopping to the ground and assessing the damage ( nothing broken, just scraped) I started rocking the treelike branch back and forth on its pivot of ground and tree. Finally, without me underneath, it succumbed to gravity. The smaller tree let go of its terrorist. The big branch can rest in peace, decompose.

In the exhilaration and pain of the moment, I went on, searching for other trees to free from their oppressors. Life is unfair. I know that. When an enormous tree falls in the woods, others are killed and maimed. They just happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Unlike us, it is much harder for young trees to get out of the way.

I happened upon a more recent event. The 3 foot diameter tree fell onto several 4 inch trees. Some were snapped off, others were bent over to the ground. Still in pain, I began sawing the pinned tops of the younger trees. I guess I am getting old --upper body workout. I am surprised at the spring left in the trapped tree. When it finally could, it sprang up several feet. Still bent over, really, horizontal (or vertical, as my wife would say).

After freeing several other young trees, I felt a bit nauseated from the workout. I sat down on the forest floor to take a break from my break,from my break, from my break.

New Life
In front of my nose was a new oak seedling. It is a shame this unsuspecting oak tree has to grow up in this Dr.Seuss forest. Well, it will either be crushed by a falling branch, grow up huge and crush other trees with its falling branchs, fall over and die in the advancing erosion, or just live a long life in the woods with few problems. Hmm, nature vs. nurture. The environment does play a role here, much moreso than in more mobile lifeforms. It is doubtful I will be back with my bowsaw to ever save this tree. It helps me to realize how short our lives are. The forest continues while we come and go from it.