Years ago I bought some raw land on a slope in Vermont. Hired someone to grade a tiny cleared patch in the woods. Drilled a well. Bought a one-room cabin kit off eBay and hired a carpenter to put it together. Spent many days and nights staring up from the porch and the hammock at the enormously tall pines pictured to the right.
The cabin was a seasonal place but even in summer it was always dark and cool. After some years I craved sunlight, so I asked a lumberjack friend if he would cut down a few of the pines. He said yes, if he could do it in the middle of winter. I don’t like to cut down trees, he said, even though he was a lumberjack. And I only do it in winter, when all the birds have left the nests.
When I read this poem I thought of him, my lumberjack friend who snowshoed alone up the unplowed dirt road to the cabin in February, towing his chainsaw and axe on a toboggan behind him, and went to work in the frozen stillness so he wouldn’t hurt the birds.
Choices, by Tess Gallagher
I go to the mountain side
of the house to cut saplings,
and clear a view to snow
on the mountain. But when I look up,
saw in hand, I see a nest clutched in
the uppermost branches.
I don’t cut that one.
I don’t cut the others either.
Suddenly, in every tree,
an unseen nest
where a mountain
for Drago Štambuk
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