Stay Put

By Katie Powers

August 15, 2016

Stay Put

A whistle through the trees: stay put.

He’s cutting red maples. They are small compared to the softwoods, but felled and at rest on the duff-covered floor they are immovable. He’s leaving behind the biggest, the hemlocks, for some day’s lumber. It feels good to do the work, the beginning of next year’s heat. The woods are cold and still.

Watching a tree come down makes a tightness in her chest. The efficiency of it is always shocking: a few moments of the saw at high pitch; the wedge taken from the trunk like a bite – a bright and wide open wound; him stepping away, practiced. At first there is mere waving, like a wind moving through. Then suspension, a breath not taken. The tree with nothing beneath it, moving slowly slowly and then faster faster, pushing past its neighbors in freefall to the earth. The bounce: branches limp as unconscious arms, the reverberation of a loss they barely comprehend, booming through the quiet winter. And afterward a kind of panic, like the finality of the vet’s needle in the dog’s arm. The taking stock of the remaining forest, the woods around them not enough.

The tree dismantled, its years of work finished in a matter of minutes. The man in his wool, young now, the woman not yet his wife. The frozen stream behind them, the flurry of snow and sawdust. The sun, obscured by late afternoon, falling behind the hill.

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