Our hike began with a sense of fun and small adventure through a parade of awaiting sticker bushes and many fallen trees laid out before us like a maze of dominoes in there felled awkward patterns. I felt so blessed to have my father leading the way down the slopes of leaves and enjoying his memories about the hillside with so many tales from his experienced 75 years.
We were up for taking a chance at finding some birch wood for spoons and kuksa, not much of the fine tree stands in the current day as most of it has fallen to a rotted finality as birch is known to do.
There were so many examples of the hurricanes rath as one after another of large oaks, sassafras, and pine displayed the ending of many old timers all the while young saplings brought the future into focus as we hiked forward seeking that wonderful white bark!
The journey made for a good start to a Saturday morning being in the brush gaming our visions against the shining sun as it would fool the eye into creating a birch like brightness along its bark only to have our further steps show us it was nothing more than maple or oak, you could almost hear the sun giggle at our wrong discovery once closer to the subject.
But with enough getting around we finally came across many rotted branches scuffled and wet resting in a bed of autumn leaves leading us to possibilities that we may have some stronger birch on the horizon.
As time expressed a solid half hour into our travel we had finally come across only but a few of the wonderful tree. Suddenly the appreciation was more for it to remain standing than for us being all in for it falling with our saws. I really was trying more to look out for strong green pieces that had already fallen and after seeing so much of the forest mangled and robbed of its standing timber I was glad for the exercise and laughs we shared with little care of returning home with a small haul of birch logs.
So we took in the appreciation of the natural colors of white with each one seeming like a rare find, just too few to make for a spirited catch. We talked and laughed while agreeing on leaving it to the woods although the excitement for cutting some small logs was hard to contend with.
The entire fetch was not a full zero in it’s execution as while driving my truck later that week there was a healthy arm of storm birch sitting outside a home in the nearby neighborhood…...gold!...lol.
Now it was time to work some ideas through. I got my chosen piece sawn away then gave it a split and began to learn about the textures and grains.
The hewing with my hatchet was enjoyable as the chips gave away greeting me with ease almost as if to say here is your reward for your time and efforts.
Once the knives took over for tightening up the curves and weight of the spoon I felt the light winds waving through the shop reminding me it’s November although the task kept my arms moving and my spirits warm.
I was enjoying this Birch, my first encounter was an open invitation for repetitious whimsical ideas to improve my skills, share with friends and maybe have a few gifts before all said and done.
Although it once was tall and strong, it straddles problems busted in soil
We kick it or cuss it our bodies can’t budge it, our saws stick in kerfs drenched in mutten and oil
That old battered bastard so strong and stubborn, broke from the ground and brought me to hell
The axe chips its armor, my shoulders set on fire and the old giant whistles and yawns..”very well”
I am stronger than you with my blade, off with your timbers make way my crusade!
My machine tells your time you old wooden log, crumble your sawdust to old tattered fog
But someday I too will be old, I’ll sit in my chair and stair in the cold
A fool I was in my young mans prime, for the chair that I sit in was made from that pine
The lines in my face embrace the years, the heartache, the victories the midnight fears….
so when I am gone it seems I was wrong….that old battered bastards chair is still strong.
Stay strong with those trees friends,
-- "Always continue to learn, laugh and share!" JJW