Saturday 5 January 2019

A time to die

There's a famous Zen story about an apprentice monk who breaks <ooops> the Sensei's favorite tea-bowl. He cleans up the pieces and seeks out his teacher:
"Sensei sensei what is death?"
"Ah so, good question, nobel pupil. This has engaged the great scholars of today and previous times. The surest thing we have established is that for everything there is a time to be created and a time to die"
Bringing the pot-sherds from behind his back, the apprentice says "It was time for your cup to die".
[Optional Cue Blade Runner]

When we left the tree-felling story, I was feeling soiled and ashamed at being unable to address avarice and cruelty in another person. The bloke next door did sell his property . . . to an unhappy couple for whom rural isolation in a foreign country was the last thing they needed to cement their relationship. Within a year, the house was on the market again and eventually bought by a couple from town with a personable and chatty sub-teenage chap and a small dog. I started waking up at 0300hrs on stormy nights imagining the last substantial macrocarpa cypress falling over and crushing their cottage like a bug. That tree was now exposed to winds from half the points of the compass and had lost several large limbs after the trim and tidy of February 2016. My favorite timber-team were unable to give me a quote but eventually a tree-surgeon came recommended and said he'd come a look to see what he would advise.

Owning a tree comes with responsibilities; same as owning a dog and going hill-walking among sheep. If it does damage you can't just claim act of god or nature's whim. I felt particularly wrong-footed because I'd had to defend tree's very existence against the 'expert' opinion of the local tree-surgeon. It was hard, having thus committed myself pro silva , to turn 180o and agree with a man I found personally repellent. Accordingly, on the night before my appointment with the new tree-feller, I went to ask for absolution from Fr. Rissoles of Forth & Bargy. I was feeling wrung out by the whole emotional turmoil of it. But a cup of strong tea and a wodge of sourdough soon braced me. "Sometimes", said His Rissoleness, "you just have to do what you have to do . . . that will be two decades of the rosary and five shillings please". He's old style/

It was therefore with a reasonably clear conscience that the following day, I shook hands on a several days deal to trim, limb, chip and fell a tree under which countless children had swung since at least 1989 when it came into the family. Dealing with a contractor, who comes with a team of more or less well-integrated workers, is thatworks because a) I do far less work b) the work goes quicker and so it's often cheaper. The disadvantage is that the workers are underpaid and overworked and ultimately expendable.

The Thursday and Friday after Christmas I thus stood on the solid earth as another arborist got his bearings in the tree and started to rain parts of it down to ground. 'Stood' was entirely the wrong word because I was tasked with keeping the felling zone clear and sorting everything into piles for chipping, splitting and cutting. Jakers, b'ys, I may be getting too old for this sort of mullarkey. I have to use muscles which normally sit in a groove of the sofa. And even the more active muscles are brought to bear in quite novel combinations. If you don't limber up and take it handy it's easy to get a crook back or a hernia. At tea time on Friday as dusk swept in from the sea, I was knackered but there was nothing left upright except a single 5m tall knobbly trunk pointing like an accusatory finger at the sky.

TBC: yesterday . . . and today.

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