One Branch at a Time, One Page a Day



One of the biggest branches of a two-hundred-year-old oak tree fell in my yard.
“It’s about three hundred feet,” the arborist I called told me.
It is heartbreaking to agree that it is time to cut an old tall tree. After all this oak was still covered with huge leaves, which shimmered under the Maine summer sun.
“It is a magnificent tree,” the arborist said. “But it is dying and needs to go.”
It was decided that his crew would saw the tree down to its massive base, chop the branches and haul everything away from the yard.

This is when I thought of my pile of wood down the hill, on the lakeshore.
I was too busy with my four kids when the first oak fell six years ago to take care of the debris. I let the pile of wood accumulate, hoping it would quickly rot and make compost. I found out that wood takes its time to decay. I quit looking at the pile, embarrassed and discouraged, hoping for a day where I would finally tackle the task. Or have enough money to hire someone to do it for me. In my dreams.
“A branch at a time,” the arborist told me when he evaluated the mess clogging the cove. “You clean a branch at a time. It will take hours and a lot of energy but it’s doable.” He paused, taking the huge trunks and the intertwined branches. “I will chop the biggest branches ones for you,” he added. “You will have to haul them up, though.”
Now that I had a plan, I had no more excuses. It took me two days and a half to gather the branches and haul them from the shore to the top of the hill. It is a small distance but there is no flat path and my calves got their workout as I trudged uphill, arms loaded with branches of all sizes and weight.
As I dug through the cove, pulling a branch here, digging for another one there, moving through layers of leaves, I rediscovered this part of the yard, bordered by the lake on one side and a small woodsy area on the other.  As hours went by, I reclaimed the cove, shaped it to its original appearance, the one I knew sixteen years ago when the house entered our family.
The big rock my oldest daughter loved to climb on to read The Boxcar Children is now uncluttered. The path, she and her two sisters, traced to build their own houses in the woods, is much shorter than I remembered. My girls were little and their distances were mine too.  Mosquitoes are still ferocious in the shadier areas, but left me in peace as I worked along the water. My son caught his first bass here.  
The arborist was right; the work was doable.  Actually his exact words were, “Every job is doable.  If you do it a branch at a time.”
I heard once a prolific writer tell someone who wished for more time to write, “One page a day for a year is a 365 pages book.”
One page a day.  One branch at a time.
Yes, every job is doable. 
If only I could always listen to wise advice. 

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