A light rain falls as I convert some of my timber stack to firewood using the chainsaw. A choice must be made- these are sawn boards, and seasoned for years in the lean-to, in case I am called to use it to make furniture. There is ash there, local pine, larch, beech, sycamore,oak, chestnut, walnut – all fit to be machined and worked, but none of it used in the last twenty years – so why keep it?
Firewood has a real value, not potential. I guage the value of my segmented timber stock in hours of burning – this board gives me an hour, two hours; this pile gives me a day, a week, longer. Horizons come closer in winter: this mild spell will end, and now I have stored some insurance like racking potatoes.
As I swing the bellowing saw, a tiny finch works alongside, also laying down reserves against winter extremes. The lesser redpolls have been active in the birches for some weeks now, settling in sudden showers among the purplish twigs waving at the branches’ extremities. They strip out the residues of nutritous seeds with rapid agility. This little bird is working alone, out of context in more ways than one, nipping not at the seed source but at the deposits on the black plastic wrapping my silage. Its head has a blush of russet, a cape of yellow descends its neck, its wings carry dark brown flecks like grains. It is focussed on its task and observant but oblivious of my operations-
-unlike the robin.
My companion ghost appears at the far side of the finch, perched on the roadside gatepost. The robin has no work, he has authority. He is a beadle, hands clasped behind his tailcoat, observing the industry of the deserving poor (me and the finch, that is) while pretending to watch the road traffic.
By 4 o’clock the timber for warmth is cut and the timber for making is stored; but someone is working harder than ever. Cocky disappeared into the lonely chooky house earlier, but now, as I prepare to lock him in, he returns to the open. He has his gaze fixed on the roof timbers where his ladies have all learned to roost, leaving him earthbound. Not for much longer, his body language says.
His posture is rigid, his neck points forward and upward like a brandished cavalry sword. He braces himself… and launches.
He gains an elevation of a full eighteen inches- (His ladies manage fifteen foot to the tie beam in three stages)- and holds fast. Sadly, his perch is a fence post that, being cylindrical, rolls backwards and forwards as he struggles for equilibrium like a logger on a Canadian river. His efforts, plainly incompetent, alert the predatory instincts of the Nog who I oblige to sit. Cocky is eventually dislodged, but remaining totally focussed on his task, stalks forward for his next attempt completely unaware of his proximity to the motionless Nog, who salivates silently.
He is attached to the deluded intent that he can fly directly up to the tie beams without following the pattern established by the womenfolk. I leave while he is still working on the problem, and return later to shut the chooky house on the assumption that he failed, and is sulking within like great Achilles.
I reckon his power to weight ratio is against him – or maybe brain to muscle. Ambition for change came late – but for all that it looks like it’s here to stay.
We are all fighting our battles on windy plains before locked cities.
We are all mighty.