-Life is what happens to you while you are busy making other plans. -John Lennon
It has been a while since I have written anything about Reddy Branch. It’s been a while since I have written anything.
What more is there to say about this rather forlorn patch of Maryland woods that offers little in the way of interest or excitement? Is there some metaphor here? A life of purpose not always being glamorous or exciting? This too often smacks of resignation to me. Those who are in the midst of a rather dreary life reconciling themselves with the vacuity of it all.
Such was the state of my thinking Saturday morning as I pulled the ax and the loppers from my car. Ennui and the humidity joined forces as I willed myself into the woods.
I no longer enter these woods as an explorer or adventurer. I come to work. Not in a negative sense; not in the working hard to fulfill someone else’s dream sense. But, I am here to accomplish something. So, I review my progress, and I am finding that this is as much a part of my work as the clearing itself. Not that I find this easy; this lack of newness and excitement. I crave something new everyday. I am not one of those who are content to follow the daily round again and again.
My first check is always the big maple and the stand of hollies. I am thinking that I will no longer need to look so carefully here until next year’s growth. Certainly there is still ivy and honeysuckle here, but need I concern myself now? I don’t think so.
I know that this next area, on the other side of the holly is not done. There is much to do here- we freed up the trees and that is enough for this season. You can see on the right the wall of vegetation; some of this is dogwood. I think I will wait until winter to push further in.
Here is where I worked alone, and, again, you see the log on the right and the need to go further into the woods.
I am up on the ridge now; this photo capturing the exposed forest floor. I worked here, again, today. I’ve spent too much time here to let it go. I want every last rose bush gone. All the roots, everything. As much for a sake of accomplishment as to see if and when the rose will return. How does it work, exactly? Seeds? Berries? I don’t see any on the bushes.
The following photo is about ten feet to the left of the above photo, where the trail takes its sharp right to the north. Much of what you see is the multi-flora rose that had been cut last winter but not actually pulled. This is what I am continuing to do here, finish what I started last winter. I try not to do things this way now. A far better method to remove the rose is to trim enough to find the base, step on what is left and then use the mattock to leverage up the root. The job is then done; the ground is cleared. Everything in the background needs to be redone. Much of it is rose that was cut but not pulled.
And this photo showing more clearing.
And here, in the next photo, is the next challenge, another fifty feet down the trail from the above photo. This ugly mess is just to the right of the previous photo; the one with my blue backpack. That is a beautiful old maple on the right side of this photo, surrounded by multi-flora rose. Challenge accepted.
Today, I worked on the mass of rose to the left of this photo. My back had had enough of the ax so I worked to clear the trees of their vines with the loppers. The edge of the woods is only another hundred feet or so from this dead cherry tree in the foreground. You can see through to the corn field. Battling invasives here, on the edge of a woods is even more imperative and more challenging. I must attempt to limit the number of seeds and berries produced by these plants (the bittersweet in particular) while at the same time the amount of sunlight they get makes them grow faster. And, as this is the high ground, the storms that come in hit these trees first. With trunks and crowns weakened by vines and roots crowded by rose and olive, many of these trees are badly damaged.
For some people, ennui is an occasional visitor, stopping by on a long summer day. Staying for several hours and then moving on. For me, ennui has been my steadfast companion for decades. I entered these woods burdened with his company, as I often am. His voice drowning out and silencing all of the others I would rather hear. I left him at the trail head while I worked. I did not purposefully leave him behind. Despite my best efforts, I rarely have the capacity to shrug off his heavy arm around my shoulders. He chose not to join me. He had no interest in these humdrum woods full of lowly sassafras, common American holly, and humble dogwood. He could not hear himself think over the sound of my ax and my loppers, and I was too busy and content to endure his complaints.