My mother and I debate: we could sell the black walnut tree to the lumberman, and pay off the mortgage. Likely some storm anyway will churn down its dark boughs, smashing the house. We talk slowly, two women trying in a difficult time to be wise. Roots in the cellar drains, I say, and she replies that the leaves are getting heavier every year, and the fruit harder to gather away. But something brighter than money moves in our blood – an edge sharp and quick as a trowel that wants us to dig and sow. So we talk, but we don’t do anything.
What my mother and I both know is that we’d crawl with shame in the emptiness we’d made in our own and our fathers’ backyard. So the black walnut tree swings through another year of sun and leaping winds, of leaves and bounding fruit, and, month after month, the whip- crack of the mortgage. ~Mary Oliver from “The Black Walnut Tree” from Twelve Moons
We bought this old farm twenty five years ago:
the Lawrence family “Walnut Hill Farm”~
a front yard lined with several tall black walnut trees
brought as seedlings in a suitcase from Ohio
in the ought-1900’s.
These trees thrived for 80 years on this hilltop farm
overlooking the Canadian mountains to the north,
the Nooksack River valley to the west,
the Cascade peaks to the east,
each prolific in leaves
and prodigious in fruit.
The first year we were here,
a windstorm took one tree down.
A neighbor offered
to mill the twisted trunk for shares
so the fallen tree became planks
of fine grained chocolate hued lumber.
This old tree lines our kitchen cupboards,
a daily reminder of an immortality
living on in a legacy left behind~
sturdy while imperfect,
so beautiful to the eye and the heart.
Aim for the chopping block. If you aim for the wood, you will have nothing. Aim past the wood, aim through the wood; aim for the chopping block. ~Annie Dillard from The Writing Life
Over four years ago, I decided to aim for the block daily on this website of reflections, as if words were wood and pictures were kindling. I started storing up the wood of words and pictures, chopping away every day in case I’ll need this storehouse of fuel in the future.
I have ended up with a quite a pile of almost 2000 blog posts strewn about my feet due to my random chopping. I’ve been drenched in sweat at times, and garnered my share of splinters, but I’m readying the pile for when the weather gets cold and the nights long.
It is not that the world needs another blog post or another book — I just need to keep aiming, keep chopping and keep my eye on the block, cutting through and past the wood. This is something I do because I feel better when I do it, like the redemption of aching muscles after a hard work out.
My ax needs constant sharpening and I keep my aim focused. The days are shortening.