Good day all:

Weekly Wisdom, from deep in the Boreal Forest (la moisson boréale):

“Ma fren Charles Black-Bear Muskeg he tell me his memory is so good, why he remember going to de drive-em thru movie wits his pappy and coming home wits his momma.” — our local everyman we’ll name Claire visiting with his friend, a Québécois, who we’ll name Armand and who was discussing aging and memory

By the time you read this on Saturday morning I’ll have had my morning coffee at Bobbers in Bruce Mines and be well on the way home. That’s why this Friday posting.

Filling the days – People often wonder how it’s possible to fill a day here in the Northern Woods. The reality, there is too much to do to fill any day. And, I am not even counting time for the ongoing cabin repair, improvements, and add-ons. Let stand time to read, do jig-saw puzzles, play Scrabble, or activate the logic side of the brain with Sudoku. Most importantly, can’t fail to mention clearing time to not do anything but watch nature in all its glory (a favorite). Whoops, also forgot about the mandatory campfires and fish fries with family, friends, and neighbors.

This was the packing and shut-down-for-the-season week, adding an extra layer of activity. In addition to the cabin shut-down, pick the heaviest weather day of the week and set out in the little kayak for a three mile paddle on a lake filled with white caps. Come home with arms burning from almost two hours of hard paddling; hot, with face red from wind and water spray. Then jump into that cold water for a “lake shower” finishing up with a rubdown and warm dry clothes.

Taking time to chop firewood so that a dry supply is available for next year’s campfires is important. Its brainless activity, but satisfying and it does give an appreciation for each piece placed in the fire. Thanks Paul for teaching me how to properly stack the stuff—its an art form.

Or, take a four-wheeler till it can’t go further and then hike 500 feet through chest-high grasses and raspberry bushes, over hills and all the while tripping over unseen boulders. All of this just to place a remote camera at a location likely to catch sight of a roaming gray wolf. Then repeat it all a few days later to retrieve the camera and check the results.

But, back to the campfires, all of which leads to “the” tree. An old, lonely, bent-over-the-water, cedar. An isolated tree, one that really should have collapsed a long time ago. It hadn’t!

The Story – in 4 (tiny) chapters:

Chapter 1 –The Tree – people who see the ‘mystical’ in trees would, without hesitation, run up to this cedar and throw their arms around it—I know who you are! Aside from being twisted, over the years it had been badly scarred by fire. The winds and lack of protection had bowed it. Its diving posture over the lake had become a landmark. Nevertheless, it hung in there. It had character, serious character.

Chapter 2 – The Campfires – on our neighbor’s land, near our cabin, is a small clearing. This has been the site of some wonderful conversations and campfires. Earlier this year they made the decision to move the fire pit about ten feet further from nearby trees to avoid damaging them or, worse, have a spark jump. Ominously, it brought the pit ten feet closer to that single, bent, cedar. The one that leaned over the lake.

Can you hear the music building?

Chapter 2 – The Saw – early in the summer I picked up an old, made in 1969, chain saw at a nearby yard sale. I was told that for the $10.00 I paid I had just bought an expensive boat anchor. I had faith, especially since it had excellent compression. Sadly it didn’t take long for me to come to the conclusion that maybe everyone else was right and I really had bought a “boat anchor.”

As a last resort neighbor Bob, master forester, logger, hunter, fisherman, trapper, and lawn manicurist, agreed to take it with him to southern Ontario and to his engine repair guy. I was told that his guy was stunningly magical with 2-cycle engines. If there was the smallest spark of hope this person would be able to turn that spark into a roaring, living, breathing machine.

To make a very long story really short, Bob returned with my $10.00 chainsaw—WORKING. Not only working, but quick start working. It is now a great little machine. Plus, he brought back an excellent, identical, parts saw. I am set for life!

Chapter 4—Sawing Saving the Forest – Monday was blustery, all day the wind had gusted. All day a fire had been going in the fire pit to burn cleared brush. All day our neighbor who we shall call Sparky had monitored the fire religiously.

About five in the afternoon, the fire long out, Sparky’s better half who we’ll call Sparkelina, saw smoke; and panic struck! Smoke was seen pouring through a crack midway up the old cedar tree. Somehow a single spark had blown into a gap near that tree’s roots. That hot ember, packed tight in the dark interior of the tree eventually sprung into a roaring fire inside the tree’s hollow trunk.

To the untrained eye what then ensued might have been viewed as a scene from an old silent movie with all its frenetic back and forth. However, our bucket brigade did have purpose—it was just too little and of no avail. Gravity was fighting us and we weren’t very proficient tossing water skyward into the trunk; As fast as we doused visible flames the wind would gust and a roaring, internal, inferno would start up again.

Next came an attempt to will the fire into submission using man’s knowledge of how things really work. Neighbor  Sparky, a scientist and a man of chronically impending insight and deep knowledge hit on the scientific formula as he solemnly intoned; “starve the ‘efffin’ fire”. Quickly this led to sealing off the tree trunk using old tarps and sand. Here Sparkelina was magnificent as she flitted about the tree like a forest fairy sprinkling pixie dust; only in this case she sprinkled those scraps of old tarps—at times on hands and knees. An hour later that little opening, way up in the tree, kept on pouring smoke and steam.

A decision had to be made. It became apparent that, that old crooked cedar was a goner. The much bigger issue now was preventing a possible blazing fire fueled by high winds, and the waiting nearby forest and cabins.

Decision made, I emerged from our little shed with THE SAW! I am certain that, at that moment, the clouds parted and a single beam of sunlight focused on the little saw.

Through all the blood rushing in my head I thought I heard Marcia’s voice proclaim boldly; “that old thing will never start!”

“Vroom”, the old saw sprang to life.

Again, I heard Marcia, as through a megaphone; “that blade is totally dull, it won’t cut a thing!”

“Vroom”, and wood chips flew to the ground.

Mere minutes later the deed was done. The tree was down. Water was poured into the trunk. A forest was saved thanks to a little old saw that could. Lesson learned: never count out those old farts—machine or man!


Animal Planet – It’s gotten noticeably quieter as the chatter and chirping of the song birds has disappeared. Although we’ve seen a few formations of Canadian Geese head south it’s not yet anywhere near the hundreds upon hundreds we saw heading north at the beginning of the season.

Fall colors are fast approaching their peak, although we’ll miss that event. What we did see is the muting of color as the grasses and lakeside look changes into a beautiful blend of soft color swaying in the fall winds.

On Monday, the neighbor across the cove spotted a young Black Bear near their cabin as did residents on the south end of the lake a day or so earlier. The critter took off when one of the windows was slammed. The berries have disappeared and so these creatures are turning back to their scavenging ways.

Closing – And so, we too are joining the migratory multitudes, just in time to enjoy the trailing end of summer in the ‘Nati (and October Fest on Sunday). Soon the snows will be against the cabin’s windows. Our neighbors, on occasion, have trekked in to celebrate New Year in the forest with a midnight bonfire on the lake ice. Maybe one of these days we’ll join them, then again, maybe not, Marcia doesn’t like cold that much.

Make it a great week everyone.



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