THIS LAST ICE STORM DID SO MUCH DAMAGE TO THE TREES ON OUR LITTLE PLOT OF GROUND THAT IT WAS BEYOND OUR AGING ABILITIES TO DEAL WITH IT.

The crew we hired to come in showed up Wednesday morning and began taking out damaged and and other trees suspected as potential threats to our house, and hauling them off. This needed to be done as a matter of safety and survival. It had to be done. Yet there was a sadness watching them fall.

Watching these men work was a marvel of competence and coordination. What they accomplished in a matter of hours would have taken me the rest of my life – even if I had the ability I once had, or imagine I had.

I can live with the departing pine trees that threatened our home, but loosing a beautiful maple, also near the house, that I had watched grow from 8“ across at the base to over 15”, was sad indeed. At least that wood will warm us next winter with memories of its beauty as well as the energy that beauty contained. I loved that tree.

I am not a “tree hugger”, but I do value trees as givers and sustainers of life. Add to that their truly lyrical beauty and there is enough reason there to have them for their own sake. There need not be some branding as a commodity to demonstrate their value. Also I heat with wood and I have wood products in my home and I love living among trees. And I have a chainsaw and an axe, neither of which are my favorite tools

A stand of pine or hardwood is not “undeveloped” land. It’s just what it is supposed to be. There are those among us, I fear, who would “harvest” (an interesting connotation that one would usually find while discussing, for instance, the harvesting of beets) every marketable tree on the planet for money.

I lived in the south for half of my life. There you can grow longleaf pine to profitable size in about 40 – 50 years. If pulp is the object I believe that number is somewhat lower. Paper companies and others have thousands of acres planted all in neat rows evenly spaces so as to allow machinery to come in at the proper time and “harvest” them. This is an industry and it produces a product, employs many workers. And none of those trees threaten our house. Think dollars not Joyce Kilmer’s “I think I shall never see / a poem as lovely as a tree”.

But that’s exactly what I thought about that beautiful maple that split and had to be taken down. Obviously it was damaged beyond repair. Obviously it needed to be taken down. And so a lovely poem died.

Back in the late 1980s, I began to suspect that my hearing was suspect. I went to an audiologist and had a hearing test. Her report was that I was borderline, but still in the ‘green zone’ and did not need immediate help. I now know that understanding is the backbone of hearing loss. If I was having problems understanding then that needed to be addressed. I have always been able to hear things, but understanding had fallen off precipitously over the years.

Things came to a head one week when I was house sitting for friends. I was watching a movie in their bedroom from their bed on my last night there and the next day they were to return from their trip. The movie was GUNG HO. It was a propaganda piece designed to give the folks at home a good feeling after the historic disaster at Perl Harbor.

I got a call the following day when I was told that I had a serious hearing problem. What do you mean, was my reply. It seems that when they got into their bed, that first night after their return, they decided to take in a little TV. The volume blasted them out the window. They didn’t understand why the neighbors didn’t call the cops on me.

The theory goes that if I needed such volume to hear my movie then there was a problem. Furthermore, I had just taken a job at LLBean where I needed accurate hearing skills to perform. It just wasn’t going to work unless I got help.

I arranged for a hearing test at which time I found that I was seriously impaired and needed serious hearing assistance. That’s when I began to wear hearing aids. That was 20 years ago. Hearing loss doesn’t get better over time – it always gets worse. And, it’s understanding that counts. If you don’t understand what you are hearing, you are hearing impaired. It’s as simple as that. Get help.

I must be getting old. I’m feeling the cold this morning – more than, I think, usual. Checking the facts – a popular pastime these days – it was 9˚ when I woke up and stoked the fire. That qualifies as bloody cold. We like to say things like, “It dropped into the ‘single numbers’ early this morning”. Insider talk. You had to be there. That kind of stuff.

At sunup there was actually some sun visible in the distance. It is now cloudy and – though my eyes are not quite fully open – I am pretty sure that was a white speck that I saw drifting past my window that gives a narrow view onto the hillside out back.

I’ve loaded the little Waterford stove twice now and the base chill that kept gnawing at my hands and knees (I hate to wear long pants inside) is finally broken and I feel safe and warmly secure in my little bubble of heat.

Oddly, and completely off course, thoughts of warm rain bounded down the years and there we are walking out of a pocket wilderness in southwestern Arkansas in a gentle but persistent rain that I made no attempt to avoid. Soaked to the bone without a single shiver. Pure joy!

Then, all at once, that little white speck is a genuine squall streaming horizontally across my window to the woods.

When I was a kid, and the almost like-a-clock afternoon summer rain shower came along, we would put on our bathing trunks (we called them bathing trunks) and went out and turned our faces up into the falling rain. There was no chill. It was almost amniotic. Perhaps it was truly an unconscious attempt to return to the safety and promise of he womb that made this ritual such a prize.

March – don’t bet on it.

I get a newsletter from the author Louise Penny on the first of each month. They are as interesting and fun to read as her outstanding books – all of which, I am sorry to say, I have read.

She begins the March letter with a quote from Al Gore – “Air travel is nature’s way of making you look like your passport photo”. She goes on to say, “Always makes me a little upset when the customs person looks at me, then at the maniacal passport photo, and never says, ‘This can’t be you.’ ”

Anyway, I thought I’d share that with you. I had just written an old friend down in the Old Country – SE Texas – saying how good it would be to see them again and how difficult air travel was for me. Of course I took the opportunity to add my 2¢ about the industry by saying “I sometimes think the airline industry is run by aliens. Surely no human would treat other humans that way!”

After sending that note off, I thought back to when I first lived in Texas and there was an airline called Trans Texas Airlines. TTA. Somebody started calling it Tree Top Air. It seemed to fit. It had flights to most cities with sufficient airports. I flew quite a few times on those old and comfortable airplanes. My favorite was the Supper Convair. Cruising speed 360 mph. About half of today’s jets.

I can remember walking from most terminals out onto the tarmac, usually past a small fence. I remember carrying my bag and sometimes an attendant at the airplane would take it and put it into a compartment in the belly of the plane. When you walked up the stairway into the front of the cabin you faced a huge closet – yes, I said closet. You hung your hanging stuff there and there was space enough for a small suitcase as well. Now you found your seat which was roomy enough to cross your legs with a little to spare.

Well, it’s time for something like, “Ah, those were the days!” I remember thinking that those airplanes were designed with people in mind. This is probably revisionist thinking at best.

I did love flying in those days. I even learned to do it myself. A thrill a minute!