written by John:
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I sat down on the bench I made that sits just outside our front door and pulled on my rubber boots in case the tide was up. Down the steps I went to unleash the anxious ball of fur that always accompanied me on walkabout.
Instead of turning left toward the highway, the path I choose when I go to the store, check the mail, or take out the trash, I made a quick right towards the ocean. As he always did, Chewy took off. If he was a good boy, he would be down there waiting for me. All in all, it is only eighty or so yards from my front door to the waters edge.
I have permission to cut through Alban's property, my next door neighbor, whose house practically sits on the water. It takes less than a minute to get to his driveway. I passed his ancient garage caving in on itself under the weight of hundreds of hau tree branches; evidence of a lost battle to the elements.
The sea wall is on the other side of the crumbling structure. There are steps down to the beachfront, and if the tide is out, another hundred yards and I'll reach the end of a narrow finger of land that aims toward the reefs that separate the ocean from the bay. The stream that runs in front of my house empties into the bay out here.
Chewy and I meandered along the shoreline almost to the end of the point when I saw a big blunt wooden nose sticking out, extending from the edge of the nearby mangrove. Chewy saw it at the same time I did and took off straight for it. When I caught up to him, he was sniffing around and marking it as his. I could tell that it had to have been a very high tide when it approached, considering where it ran aground.
It was firmly lodged in the sand and it looked soaked through and through. A water line was etched all the way around it near the top surface and underneath that mark the whole of it was encrusted with barnacles. This told me its voyage had been long and judging from its size I didn't think it was from our part of the world. What had finally washed up out here on the rim of the bay was a magnificent spruce log.
I climbed atop this mighty hunk of wood and while standing on it, I could imagine it out there drifting silently, making its way across the vast Pacific. There was no moon on the night it arrived, and my imagination conjured up visions of this massive trunk riding in on the huge, tumultuous waves, rolling across the outside reefs that protect the bay, and then floating into shore, unnoticed, until it made landfall.
Chewy trotted off into the bushes to search for old tennis balls that washed ashore on a daily basis. It was the norm for him to find at least one ball every time we came out here. For that amazing feat I nicknamed him Bally Wally. I stayed with the log.
I go to the ocean with all my emotions. Sometime we are in synch, me and the ocean, both of us happy, sad, or angry. Blue sky or grey, I find solace out there and it is my place to go for quiet and moments of reflection. Now, with this new added attraction, I could sit up out of the water on a high tide and still see across the entire reach of the bay including a full view of both mountains and ocean. It wasn't long until all the barnacles and sea life that made this piece of wood their home had vanished.
The log was thick, an easy four feet in diameter and about ten feet long. When I stood back to look at it, it reminded me of those characters I once saw in the animated film, "The Yellow Submarine". The ocean facing end of the log had a profile that included a fine snubbed nose. Slightly above and behind the nose was a large cavity which had to have been where a significant branch had grown and now looked like an old whale's eye. It didn't take much imagination for me to see the cartoon mammoth that was alive and well inside the log.
My plan was to let it dry out and then harvest it. I would give new life to it. This much spruce would surely yield enough wood for plenty of my students to apply their skills in the guitar making workshops I was hoping to create some day. All I had to do was be patient and sit on it.
The years came and went as did my good old pal, Chewy. After he was gone, I spent many afternoons sitting on that log wondering about life in general. I started having conversations with the tree, much like the many talks I had with my dog. Both were such good listeners. After enough practice, I could make the world stop when I was out there with the tree. I could get a better look at it from my new vantage point. I reasoned with the tree how time goes by so fast, yet so few of us really take advantage of our brief stay here, let alone take in the view. The tree had more to say about life than I did. It had lived so much longer than I ever would, and I could only imagine it in its prime.
I reckoned this piece of tree came down out of the Pacific Northwest and was probably a Sitka spruce. These regal trees grow to heights ranging from 90 to 130 feet and they can live up to a whopping 500 years of age.
Near the end of last year, I had a flash that it might be time to harvest the wood. The day after, I went to check on the log and I noticed that it had stirred. Another very high tide had pushed it a little further inland. It was able to float again! This told me that it had lost most of the water it soaked up on its last voyage. I would have to keep my eye on it, because the long wait for it to dry out was near its end. I had better sharpen my chainsaw; it was time.
Just after the beginning of the new year, I had a feeling that I'd better get out to the point with my tape measure and chalk line to mark where I would make my cuts. When I went out to check on it, it was gone.
I stared at the vacant space where the tree had taken up its residence. There wasn't a trace left behind. Its disappearance added to the emptiness of the whole surrounding area. This made me sad, as if I lost a valued friend. Suddenly a bright thought entered my mind, almost like a farewell message. All those years of shared confidences with the tree were still etched in my memory and even though the tree was gone, the lessons it taught me would remain. It was then, after it had sailed off, that I thought about its next port of call, and who the lucky person would be to come aboard.
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