January 26th, 2001

I spent this afternoon out in the maple woods making firewood out of
a fallen hard Maple. The windstorm last spring claimed a number of
grizzled old giants and this was one of them. I normally enjoy being in the woods and spend some amount of time out there just cruising around and seeing the sights. But today was an uncommonly warm January day and I was intent on getting this particular tree sawn up into blocks and pole wood. Several tanks of gas, a couple of chain filing sessions and the job was done, with all the pole wood loaded on the trailer. I would return the following day to split the larger wood and start the process of hauling the splits to the yard and stacking them there to dry in the sun and wind.

As I drove the old Ford tractor through the woods I finally started
to 'see' the world around me. Lots of deer tracks, as the mild weather
and lack of snow has allowed them to be on the move. They follow the same trails year after year, moving through their world with grace and ease. I see the meandering footprints of a grouse and a few rabbit tracks. I listen to the creaking and groaning of the trailer and the protesting of the old Ford as we climb a grade. I am the only source of noise as I pass through the syruping woods, where the sugar maples stand as if silent sentries, waiting for the warm weather when they will signal the start of spring with their magical sap flow. I think ahead to standing by the sap cooker on a chilly March evening, watching the sap slowly darken and transform into the liquid amber nectar of the maple woods. Watching the steam rise and smelling the smoke. Hearing the crackling of the fire and the muted roar of the draft in the chimney. A lonely sounding owl keeps me company.... or so it seems.

As I, and the load of wood, neared the fields I began to notice the
brightness in the western sky. The sun was just slipping below the
skyline and the result was a sky so brilliantly orange that it seemed to be the only thing in the world at the moment. I parked the tractor and left the wood, tools and everything on the trailer and walked to a better vantage point to view the sky. To the North I could see blue-gray clouds along the skyline, gradually changing to purple as their height increased. I swung slowly to the East and saw the colors change to lavenders, pinks and pale blues. In the South were the beginnings of the yellows and oranges, faint at first and then growing bolder as I looked farther West. By now the Western sky was resplendent in golden-orange, with the power to keep me standing motionless, staring.
Directly in front of me stood the huge old Silver Maple near
the driveway. The vast crown, with its shaggy,flaking bark, now
appeared only as silhouette. The twisted, myriad limbs looked like
charcoal sketching, so motionless they were. I tore my gaze from the
West to see the paling of the rest of the sky. The colors were still
there, but seemed to be tiring and fading.
The moon, only two days from full, was already making it's climb. It was escorted by a seemingly small star, the only one visible at this time. The moon seemed to exhort me to admire it and keep my gaze upon it, but I knew I could not keep from looking to the West once more. When I swung back to the sunset, I was greeted by the most amazing, intense yellow and gold. The colors faded quite quickly until only the wisps of clouds showed the gold. Another swing to the orange wildness made the clouds appear to burst into flame. Again the hues faded.... darkness was falling. As I turned back to look at the moon, I realized that the whole mystical change that I had just witnessed had been completely silent. This changing of the guard, day into night, had been accompanied by a riotous barrage of colors, a clamoring to look here, look there..... and yet it was noiseless. A world modestly slipping into darkness, known only to those who happened to be fortunate enough to be out there in it, a gift not to be taken lightly.

I was now in the world of moonlight. Everything still there and
familiar to me, yet indistinct..... almost unreal. The ghost world. I
looked to the Lodge and could see wood smoke lazily drifting from the chimney. I knew that the wood that I had fed the glaring coals in the stove was now burning and the Lodge would be thoroughly warm by now. I had been wet from the exertion of wood making and now I was starting to shiver. But the moon held me in it's grasp for a while longer before I slipped into the Lodge to toast myself over the wood stove.