UNCHOPPING A TREE
by William Stanley Merwin
Merwin’s Unchopping a Tree is a procedural essay as we can infer from the title alone. Here, Merwin describes what it takes for one to put together again a tree that has been cut down. Note that the author is very accurate in his steps so as to ensure that the tree will be exactly what it was when the rebuilding is done.
According to Merwin, we have to start with the leave sand all others that belong to the tree’s crowning glory. They have to be put back exactly the way they used to be. Everything that used to be there has to be there again---exactly the way it was.
Next in line is the trunk. Everything has to fit like the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. There must not be a single misplaced splinter.
The next thing to do is to raise the trunk and place it on the stump. This, he says, is no small enterprise because you have to use the proper fixative and that is difficult since, as he says, “again we have no duplicate for the original substance”.
Now for the last step---we lower the splintered trunk unto the stump. Here, you have to gather the chips and sawdust and they must be returned to their former positions. Another problem is presented in this last step---bark sawdust decomposes very quickly if exposed to the elements.
Once that problem is dealt with, you now have to find a translucent adhesive that is not so rigid. So your tree is now erected but is still held upright by the support of the scaffolding. And you take a restless night.
In the morning, you remove the scaffolding. You cross your fingers in hope that the gentle breeze won’t push the tree over and that’s all you can do.
And there we can conclude that a tree is really difficult to “unchop”. But, may I ask, why do we easily take down trees? Would we still find it easy to chop a lot of trees down once we’d experience unchopping just one tree?
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