The Hoary Wood
Today several members of the tribe headed back to Vermont to enjoy a winter hike and lend a hand. Part of our Kindred is a dedication to local, hands-on, community service. Today was just that. We headed out to the Merck Forest and Farmland Center because the Kindred was asked to lend a hand. They know us from previous volunteer events and this group has done everything from painting cabin doors to picking up deadfall. Today we were asked to head out on a 4-5 Mile loop trail in the North Woods to mark all the fallen trees on a map. We were handed a bucked with clippers and saws and told to cut back any encroaching raspberries or wild roses, (the kind of stuff that makes hiking more of a contact sport than most of us prefer). And that was our day. Four of us were out there. We hiked and cleared brush. We sawed and lifted dead trees. It was only three hours out and about but the elevation gain was serious at times and the workout was real.
It felt great.
It felt great to be outside in a wild place, with not another soul around but the occasional herd of whitetails or spooked grouse. It felt good to watch ravens fly overhead in a gray sky and talk about the things Heathens talk about when allowed to roam feral in a winter woods. Which, coincidently, is the exact same things we would talk about in a city bar - lore, history, ethics, and gossip.
When we found a wooden foot bridge over a stream of bubbling water, Tim suggested it as a good offering spot. I took off my daypack and pulled out a horn and a carefully wrapped bottle of cider. We filled the horn with the brew and he raised it to the wights of the hoary wood. He said a few words of winter’s chill and the good green coming and we made and offering and passed the horn around. Once done we got right back to work.
When we returned to the visitor’s center with the marked map of chainsaw jobs for the staff, and their tools, everyone was tired and happy. The staff was grateful for the help with the grounds and we were tired from the walk. A hike is a good workout already, but adding the sinking work of uphill frost heaves, mud, and soft earth pulling back at us it was like hiking with ankle weights. That’s not a complaint, just an observation. I can’t speak for the others but the single mug of coffee I was running on had me running on fumes. I was looking forward to lunch.
We headed in Manchester Vermont for the Northshire bookstore and cafe. We had snazzy coffee drinks and sandwiches and got to spend some time in the giant independent bookstore milling about. Saw a new book on the Life of Snorri written by a local Vermonter and I made a note to grab it in the future when book money flows like cider from that horn. (Or I cave and just spend money on books!)
It was a day of work, community, sweat, wilderness, good food and books. None of us in the tribe are rich by any means, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t wealthy. We had a day of experiences and frith, friends and forests, and above all a safe time out and about increasing our worth and reputation. I’m proud of us, and of the efforts ahead.
Our next Community Service project? Get excited, because the local brewery needs help bottling beer…