Backhoe Blues

As I lay here in our neighbors’ sunny dome, I feel so thankful for such a nice place to nurse my baby down–both of us getting a much-needed midday rest from the land-clearing going on today at our homestead. I close my eyes and envision a funeral wreath made out of the shimmery green hemlock branches that I cut down today, as I shed a tear over the complexity and profundity of it all–how we humans inescapably kill in order to live and live to order to kill, every day of our lives.

Sacrificing the plants and animals around us, and watering the burial site with our sweat and tears: just another trip around the wheel. Today is no different, just the speed of the turning is turned up a few notches.

I’ve done clearings like this many times here in this land, but this is the first time I’ve done so as a nursing mother. And I can assuredly feel the difference: softer, more sensitive joints, and more sensitive heart. My chest and my jaw is literally sore from clenching, and I’ve had to cry alot, as I bear witness to the destruction, even as I hold the saw myself.

My son points in fascination and repeats the word “chain-saw,” in his sweet baby-babble way. The sight of my liitle-one witnessing such industrial scale destruction from the breakfast table of our cozy little hollow feels like a failure–I am unable to shield him from what are, in my view, some of the most distasteful parts of our culture.

I severely dislike the fascination our culture builds around big machines like tractors, backhoes, and steamrollers, around the excavator which is right now tearing down the very trees that Montana has grown up gazing upon, learning the shapes of leaves and the different sounds they make during a storm wind versus a summer breeze.

I was hoping to spare him the sight of this destruction, to preserve his sense of kinship with the trees, but it is not the possible with the homesteader life I lead, and I cringe at the coarseness and desensitization that I am setting up in his soft baby soul–and my own.

Ultimately, underneath it all lies a deep feeling of gratitude to the trees and critters who gave their lives today to provide raw materials and open space for the garden, the duck run, and the future barn and kitchen. Rest assured, we are taking care to save every branch and twig for composting and chipping, so as little as possible goes to waste, and builds the fertility in which we will be planting fruit trees. Our aim is to feed ourselves and our forest kin, with an eventual net gain in fertility, not a loss!

Please forgive us for the gorgeous forest soils and snakes and beetles and worms and creepy crawlies of all kinds that we do trample under our admittedly clumsy boots. We humans still have much to figure out in this world. I remain humbled, dwarfed, and supremely grateful for the immense generosity of this forest.

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