Learning How Not to Count

Day 189: I haven’t written since August, because one day has been exactly like another. Since mid-August, if not raining, I’ve stuck to a punishing routine. What can one say about monotony? I daily felled three trees, limbed those trees, stacked long logs, and hauled tree parts out of the way. I learned, sometimes the hard way, how to stay safe. I’d wait for a good day to burn the accumulated mountain of fine brush. I got used to hearing coyotes and to seeing an unpredictable mix of white tailed deer, scruffy coyotes, coy bunnies, turkeys in groups, thundering pheasants and dubious snakes. I was cutting so obsessively I thought it pertinent to cut my hair. Until a week ago, the sameness of the work was discouraging.  I hovered mid point on that neither-up-nor-down staircase, gripping the hand rail, painstakingly taking minor steps ad nausea. So much so that the bottom step I was trying to gain on seemed just a likely sign of my madness. I took the odd lovely break: I made it to see the Kathe Kollwitz and Rebecca Belmore exhibits, went to the comforting Owen Sound library, spent a day helping a friend move, had visits with my children, went to a friendly wedding reception. But that was all. I felled one tree last Monday that was resoundingly different. That tree being gone meant I’d at last cleared twenty percent of the south yard strip of forty-foot high cedars. Forever. I could see the future not just in my head, but in the yard, both north and south. One final tree gone that created a fifty foot open stretch of nothing but five waiting rose pillars, lining a crucial part of the south yard, revealing a grand possibility to plant fall bulbs. Today being three days later I have since had eighteen cubic yards of top soil delivered and have planted four hundred of my fifteen hundred fall bulbs. I am at last delivered of the self-imposed burden of my six months of hard graft, and am standing proud and almost stunned at the power of being at the very place I had last spring crazily dreamed of standing.

I made a productive vegetable garden from weedy ground. I designed and planted a large fruit cloister. I’ve made tomato sauce from things just picked; eaten potatoes only half an hour from their life in the underground; discovered the magic of garlic scape pesto, and boiled up both rhubarb and concord grape jams. At the moment I am inventing new uses for pumpkins. During these same end-of-summer months, I hired a tree angel, a man who gracefully climbs to frightening heights to rid me of immense trees tickling the house roof or hydro wires. He was here for weeks. I had my first ever ride in a fifty foot high cherry picker platform, courtesy of the capable two men now still working to save the sides and insides of my barn. I’ve learned how to use a chain saw and sharpen chains, how to fell tall trees, how to push past the seemingly impossible. Tuesday a wood stove was sold and removed. Today the second was removed, two port hole sized openings were punched in the house walls, two safe chimneys are going up, and two amazing stoves are being installed exactly as I write this. There is one more week of barn work and bulb planting here ahead of me, then everything will be put on hold waiting for a spring that promises some show, and far more time to relax.

This has been the most physically arduous, most amazing, and the best six months of my life with the possible exception of the first awe struck moments and months of motherhood. And I suppose this is a kind of entry into a fresh late life motherhood, and the beginning of a deep love to last me until the end of my days.


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