Thursday 8 June 2017

Jeepers treepers

Building yet another flight of wooden garden steps today - confident in the knowledge that no-one else will ever look at them as closely as I do; but also planning as I went what obligingly bushy plants I will edge them with to disguise all failures of measurement, sawing, straightness and general fitting together - I kept getting distracted. So were plenty of other people along the valley, I guarantee. That's what happens when there's a man in a hi-viz jacket hanging off the top of a towering pine tree, a chainsaw dangling from his belt.

He and his team below were taking down four scraggy old trees, all enormously tall (40 metres?) and, further, growing at the top of the valley's steep sides, making the ground very, very far below. It was a slow business, with lots of rope work and careful movements with every so often a burst of excitement when a branch was cut off to tumble and crash down below. I squandered a lot of step time waiting for him to cut the top off the tallest, patiently waiting with my camera poised and, of course, momentarily looking away at the very moment that it suddenly flopped sideways and disappeared. Sigh. But I did see, and hear, the rest of the trunk go a bit later, which was quite dramatic.
Trying not to do a Janet Frame (no? You haven't read The Linesman?) I  thought instead about tall trees I have climbed. There aren't that many. I don't count those wussy tree-walk arrangements with handrails like that one near Walpole in Western Australia, or another in Tasmania, where it's not even as exciting as a bush swing bridge, and you're really as safe as houses. I would definitely count that scary fire lookout one in Pemberton, though, which really was terrifying and still makes me nervous to think about.
And the other one that counts is the forest zipline that I did in Ketchikan in Alaska. Partly it was just such a contrast with the cushily luxurious and undemanding surroundings of the Silversea cruise we were on - but also, man, we were a hundred feet up a tree on a little platform with no railing - there were eagles flying below us! - and our harnesses weren't a patch on the professional get-up the tree feller was wearing today. It was a thrill, no doubt about that. I couldn't imagine doing it for a living. What do arborists do to get a buzz, I wonder?

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