I awake at daybreak to the soft, squirting sound of a Carolina Wren shitting on my dresser.
Wait, a Carolina Wren shitting on my dresser?
I chase the poor bird around the house, half-asleep and still recovering from the psychology of last night. It occurs to me that if I was the bird last night, and I ate the insect, it’s mighty telling that there is a real bird in my house this morning – and a shitting one, no less.
In one final, flitting swoop the wren finds its way out the front door to the safety of the outdoors and I fall back into bed. Three days. Ten hours of sleep total. They don’t call it full moon fever for nothing – but on top of spring fever it makes for a marathon of sleepless nights if you’re as sensitive as I am to nature’s movements.
Unsuccessful in reclaiming R.E.M, I survey the house for damages. There is shit on the placemats. Shit on the counter. Shit on the French doors. Shit on the window. Shit in the kitchen/bathroom sink. Shit on the floor. For a moment I recall Britt’s recent adventures with shit – discovering the runny, viral terds of her toddler in the radiator of all places. I decide I prefer bird shit to baby shit and clean it up contently.
One can only wonder how the day will unfold on so little sleep and waking to a sea of symbolism. A brief discussion with the neighbors reveals that I, in all my efforts of wood chopping, somehow overlooked the hurricane wood. In other words, all winter a mountainous pile of oak and sourwood sat in the forest unbeknownst to me – wood that had been bucked up after trees fell from the tail feathers of Katrina – and I was supposed to chop it. Furthermore, the neighbors prefer to have the wood stacked with a mix of hardwood and softwood. That would have been helpful to know beforehand but oh well, barter is barter and I’d rather be working outside at home then spending more hours a week at a low hourly wage.
All of this translates to a morning of wood toppling, hauling, stacking, re-stacking, and sorting. I unstack the piles of sourwood that I began in November. I haul narrow oak and maple and locust over from the hurricane pile. It’s a good thing I know my bark and the density of wood by now, otherwise the sorting could have taken all day in and of itself. I restack it properly, one row across of softwood, followed by a row of hardwood on top, and so on and so forth all the way up to the top of the shed. Repeat process, wipe sweat from brow, spit on ground, fart ‘cause no one’s around, contemplate the meaning of bird shit all over the interior of my house, and when it’s all said and done, throw the sweaty clothes on the floor of my house and head for the river.
Yes, I dare to go in the river in early April. There aren’t even leaves on the trees. There is the occasional cherry blossom, and little buds on the locust trees. But by and large the forest is still grey and hollow.
And the water? Cool, green-grey as it should be, and oh-so-refreshing coming right down the mountains and merging in this spring-filled valley. Who needs R.E.M. sleep? Who needs a day job? Give me the serenity of the South Toe River and the duty of communing with wood any day. Give me shitting birds and sleepless nights from the tides of moonlight that spill across the valley and I will bless it, breathe it in, spread the word, do my best, drink a beer, and call it a day when the sun finally dips behind the sweet, high rim of the Black Mountains.