The Isle of Virtue (Part 2):

The next morning Isabel awoke to find Pieter staring intently out the window at the far end of the room. She reached across the bed to the nightstand and grabbed the mug that was placed there. Pieter always set a hot cup of coffee for her on the nightstand at the start of each day. She sat up in bed and sipped the hot liquid as she watched her husband. He stood still, but his head bobbed up and down and side to side, as he craned forward, apparently trying to get a better view of something.

“Is it an eagle?” She asked.

“Naw…that group of trees down there…I think if I cut a few of those down we could see that mountain across the water,” he replied. 

Isabel snorted and took another sip of coffee. “You’re still fixated on that mountain? It’s been there all your life and you’ve never given it a second thought.”

“Yeah…well.” Pieter said absentmindedly as he continued peering out the window.

“Now all of a sudden. You can’t live without it!” Isabel laughed.

“Yeah…I think I’ll knock down those trees!” Pieter exclaimed suddenly and turned to face his wife. “You’ll see. We’ll get a nice view of that mountain!” He rushed past the bed, stopped abruptly and kissed Isabel on the forehead, and then hurried out the door. “I’ll be back later!” He said, as the door shut behind him.

She smiled to herself—a knowing smile—she knew her husband well. He would be gone most of the day chopping those trees down. Perhaps she should get some lunch put together and bring it down to him later; she noticed he had forgotten to take any food with him when he left. But there would be plenty of time for that; so before getting up, she sat in bed enjoying the rest of her coffee, and then snuggled down under the warm covers for a little while longer.

Pieter stopped by the shed and grabbed his long chainsaw, a small can of chain-oil and a file—and an extra chain. He nodded inwardly, pleased with himself that he had remembered that last item; it always seemed to be needed—an extra chain. And he always seemed to forget to bring one, causing him wasted time and wasted energy hiking back to the shed to get it in the middle of the day. But today he didn’t have far to go, just down the trail to a small stand of evergreen trees, not more than a few hundred yards down-slope from their house.

Pieter followed the trail part-way down the hill, and then he cut across a small meadow, filled with pale-blue lupine, their flower spikes shifting gently in the breeze. Here and there he spotted the brilliant red of a scarlet paintbrush; these were Isabel’s favorite flower. He made a mental note of these, and planned to pick a few for her on his way back home. The wind picked up just then and Pieter pulled up the collar of his jacket as a defense against the cold. The sky was growing dark and cloudy, and looked about ready to let loose with buckets of rain. But rain was common here and Pieter barely took notice; if you let a bit of rain get in your way, you’ll never get anything done.

A half dozen Spruce trees, that was all that he’d need to take down, to adequately open up the view. Pieter figured this would be about a half-day’s work to get the job done. The lupine-filled meadow wrapped around the stand of trees, and provided an easy place to drop them all, without danger or damage. None of the trees stood much over fifty feet tall, and not one was even sixty feet, he estimated; and they were all under two-feet in diameter, easy to slice through with his long-saw. Before working on the trees he took a walk to survey the area where he’d bring them down. He never wanted to drop a tree on an unsuspecting critter. He wasn’t a bleeding heart; and he could kill for food. But still, he never wanted to bring unnecessary suffering to a fellow creature, what purpose would that serve? A bit of planning and some forethought could make all the difference to a little ground-squirrel and its family.   

Once he made sure the area was clear, he prepared to cut through the first tree. Pieter had been cutting trees down all his life and could do it with his eyes closed. The first Spruce fell within several minutes, then he moved on to the second tree. This one fell almost as quickly as the first, and then he began to cut the third tree. But then, at some point, as the tree was falling to earth, he lost track of things. He couldn’t remember what exactly hit him, but it hit him pretty hard, and he fell to the ground, and he slept there for most of the day. It was Isabel who roused him hours later with a splash of water to the face. Pieter peered up into her worried face.

“What’s got you so affected, my dear? I must have just dozed off a bit.” He said, as he tried to pull himself up off the ground, and then gave up and rested back down.

“Just resting, husband? Then what’s got you so bloody?” Isabel replied as she bent down and wiped his forehead. She showed him the bloody rag.

“Hmmm…I don’t recall how that might have happened. Must’ve been hit by something.”

“Let’s get you home and cleaned up,” Isabel said as she helped Pieter to his feet. He reached for his saw but she stopped him. “You’re done for today. Just leave it. It’ll be fine there.”

Back home, she cleaned him up and wrapped his head, and sat him in a chair by the window where she could watch him, as she made their dinner. After a few moments he called out excitedly: “Isabel, Isabel, look! There it is…the mountain. I see it there, there it is! Come on, come and look!”

She put down her knife and walked to the window and peered out. She gazed past the stand of trees where Pieter had been working, and out across the water. Through the haze she could make out a solid form in the far distance.

“See it?! Pieter asked as he leaned forward in his chair. “Yep, that’s it right there, just to the right of the trees,” he said, as he pointed out the window. “Looks like I don’t need to chop any more of those trees after all. I think three will do it…I wish the clouds were gone though. Can’t see much through all that soup.” He leaned back again, feeling satisfied, and asked quietly as he drifted off to sleep, “I wonder what’s over there though…I sure wish I could see it.”

~FS

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