Over the summer, most of the State of Oklahoma enforced a burn ban and I had not been able to clean up around the woodland area near the house. One of my favorite chores all through the year is to clean up the woodlands. Downed limbs and trees from ice storms, spring and summer storm damage, and trees that have succumbed to disease or drought lay scattered and tangled in with the live trees. Some limbs and trunks are so decayed that interesting lichen and fungus have beautifully decorated the scattered limbs, while wild honeysuckle entwines around them. After a couple of abundant rains this past month, the burn ban was lifted and burning could resume. I was more than ready to get to work! Not having spent as much time outdoors this year, I had put on a little weight and I was anxious for a chance to work it off. Last week, I got my chance. Chilly autumn mornings with little breeze were perfect for burning wood. I built a fine burn pile in the pit, which is situated in a small crook in the side of a hill. Once lit, I spent the following days adding branches and limbs, using a battery-operated reciprocating saw to cut down the larger pieces. The repetitive motion of picking up wood, stacking it in my little two-wheel trailer and loading the bigger pieces on the Bad Boy buggy racks, made me feel like a well-oiled machine! I meandered through the woods, traveling back and forth to move branches and limbs FD and I had stacked along the sides of paths we had cleared over the past five years. It was mostly easy work, except for a few limbs that were tangled, requiring some tugging and pulling.
I have been told I am overly ambitious when it comes to physical work. My work ethic can be extreme. I do not look at a job and think I need help or worry that I can’t manage a situation. That way of thinking has shown me what I am capable of, often exceeding expectations and feeling a lot of pride in my accomplishments. As a child, I was taught to think problems through, and to assess a situation in order to make a common sense decision about what needs to be done. That logic has served me well over the years. However, it has also caused me some problems. An example would be not thinking along the lines of safety and venturing into “what if” scenarios.
For instance, this past week I was so focused on completing cleanup in an area of the woods near the house that I got careless. I fell several times, either slipping on loose ground or tripping over stones or roots that covered the woodland floor. I fell when I lost control of limbs I was tugging on, and I yanked and ripped at branches, trying to physically bust branches, instead of using my reciprocating saw. I got jabbed in the eye once and pushed on, despite the pain of a probable abrasion to my cornea. I worked the next several days with a very sore and painful eye. Twice, large limbs from way above me, fell on top of me as a result of my tugging away at smaller limbs tangled in trees. I had not paid attention to the “domino affect” resulting from removing one limb that supported another limb. Fortunately, both times I came out unscathed except for a few scratches on my back.
My good fortune went downhill after a week of work. I was feeling gimpy. My hips ached and my back seemed stiff. My eye was still tender. The wind had returned as well, and by the time the weather forecast was showing several consecutive days of high winds, I knew my time in the sun was over. I put my tools away and tidied up the storage building, thinking I would pamper myself with a nice, soothing bath that evening. That night I slept terribly. I couldn’t get comfortable, and of all things while stretching in my sleep I would awaken to a terrible spasm in my lower back, gripping me with pain! The next morning, I could barely get out of bed. I couldn’t bend. I couldn’t walk without discomfort, and sitting brought on excruciating pain. I opted to spend the day in bed.
The next day was even worse. I had to ask FD to help me out of bed, and while trying to get dressed it was apparent I could not get my socks on by myself. After just a bit of standing, attempting to get breakfast going, I realized I would have to resort to the bed again. FD helped me get set up for the day. Ibuprofen, a glass of water, some snacks, my iPad, my cell phone, the TV remote, and lots of pillows. As soon as he could cinch up things at work, he would take me to the chiropractor.
Recently, one of my readers, arizonaghostgirl, commented on reading the book, Watership Down, by Richard Adams. Always looking for nature and animal-inspired reading, I researched it a bit, then promptly ordered a used, hardcover copy to add to my collection. I knew by just reading the description that this would be a book I would love! When it arrived, I couldn’t wait to begin reading. Now that I was bed-ridden, I would have plenty of down time to tackle reading my new book!
I fell in love with the book immediately. Adams presents a group of rabbits as intelligent, caring, feeling creatures who take on many trials and suffer misfortunes for the sole purpose of finding a home where they can live out their lives and flourish. I found myself reading slowly, taking in every word. I soon began to question my own life, what I considered “home” and what I had ventured in life, thinking about my role in the big picture. Had I been true to myself and lived a life of adventure, fulfillment, and happiness? Had I made decisions that not only caused me to flourish, but also to benefit those around me… sharing the wealth of life? I found myself pondering nationwide passion regarding the recent presidential election. What is too much a price to pay for freedom? What is the cost of ignoring atrocities? What is home to any of us? I found this book could not be summed up with one thought, or in one sentence; even one paragraph. Whatever is gleaned in reading Watership Down—be it a political, social, or environmental critique, or simply viewed as a book about the search for a home and life—it is undoubtedly greatly influenced by how we perceive our individual role in nature, community, as a nation, and on a global level.
Perhaps I have spent too much time laying flat and pondering this book, thinking about my own life, and my contribution to society, the community… to nature. I question if I do enough, do my best, and encourage goodness. Whether I have succeeded or not, I hope that my final moments will be as Hazel’s were. That my mind and body will be tired, sated, and open to moving on to the journey ahead. The story’s epilogue tells the reader of how Hazel, dozing in his burrow one “chilly, blustery morning in March” many years later, is visited by El-ahrairah, the rabbit-folk hero who invites Hazel to join his own Owsla (the strongest rabbits in a warren; of authority). Leaving his friends and no-longer-needed body behind, Hazel departs Watership Down with the spirit-guide.
The sun was shining and in spite of the cold there were a few bucks and does at silflay , keeping out of the wind as they nibbled the shoots of spring grass. It seemed to Hazel that he would not be needing his body any more, so he left it lying on the edge of the ditch, but stopped for a moment to watch his rabbits and to try to get used to the extraordinary feeling that strength and speed were flowing inexhaustibly out of him into their sleek young bodies and healthy senses.
“You needn’t worry about them,” said his companion. “They’ll be all right – and thousands like them. If you’ll come along, I’ll show you what I mean.” He reached the top of the bank in a single, powerful leap. Hazel followed; and together they slipped away, running easily down through the wood, where the first primroses were beginning to bloom.
© Day by Day the Farm Girl Way…