What looked like a bush on the edge of the woods turned out to be a sapling, bent almost to the ground under the weight of a rotting log, reaching out of the woods like a leafy, outstretched arm.

How long had that log been there, pressing on its skinny trunk, forcing it out instead of up?

The log was too long to move end-over-end. It was wedged too tightly between trees further down to just roll it off the sapling.

So I got the axe out of the garage. Yes, I did think this might be a stupid idea. But the log didn’t seem that big, maybe 4, 5 inches diameter, tops. And it looked rotten enough to be soft, breakable even.

It was definitely not breakable. Or soft. And it was a hot July day, maybe around 90 degrees, even though the woods were shady. I had to stop and rest after every few strokes.

At first, when you’re chopping wood, it doesn’t look like you’re making any progress at all. Now this felt like a stupid idea.

Eventually, though, a wedge opens up. Then, after a long time, the log is only hanging together by a pretty thin strip. Thin enough? You test. You chop some more. You test again. Finally, after who knows how much of that, it gives way.

With the log split in two, I could pull one end away and off the little oak tree.

I planned to straighten out the sapling’s posture by tying it to a nearby tree, a small one, sturdy enough to act as a stake.

But the little oak was still springy. Even though it hadn’t bounced back first thing, it didn’t take too much tugging to get it standing. One of its branches needed pulling free of a neighboring tree. Its head needed some shaking to make it past the thicket of birch leaves overhead.

After that, it stayed up pretty straight on its own. It was tall, maybe 10 feet, leaves in the sun.

Turned out, it wasn’t “too much for me.”


leafy oak forest