Woodcutters, Unite!


It’s pruning season here in Levanto, and that means time to get out your shears and get chopping.  From where I stood today on my hilltop, I could hear the unmistakeable sounds of one chainsaw, one band saw, and one electric hedge-trimmer all going at the same time.  It all made me feel rather emasculated, seeing as how I was standing there with nothing but a wood saw and rose-pruners in my hands. 

For some reason, an enduring image of former President George W. Bush came to mind as I stood there, that one of him wearing his sunglasses and Stetson and dragging some brush behind him somewhere in the woods of his Texas ranch.  He looks content, but bushed.  How well I understand him.  (And that’s where the understanding ends.)

It’s no trick to cut down trees, but it’s a different story to get rid of them once they’re on the ground.  You have to haul them, saw them, strip them, chop them, and get them elevated off the ground and covered if you want to make any future use of them for building fences or making romantic fires.  And that’s a hell of a lot of work.  A local woodsman (OK, just a kid with a talent for gardening and the physique of a linebacker, but I like the word) once told me that in Levanto, the cost of getting someone to clear your woods is goes mostly towards getting rid of the stuff.  Sure you can burn it, but if the forest rangers get a whiff of it (we’re in a National Park here, folks), they’ll be on you like white on rice.

And so I spent much of the last two afternoons butchering the felled Wild Heather that had been trying to take over the land.  It is good, healthy work that makes you feel like part of the centuries-old cohabitation of man and nature in Liguria.  Before you get too teary-eyed about cutting down trees, remember that Wild Heather is invasive, useless (unless you personally make wooden pipes), and will steal the light from benevolent and miraculous olive trees.  And furthermore, if you don’t do anything about the Heather, it and the brambles will slowly take over the entire hillside, leaving you nothing but land that is ready to slide down into the valley during the next heavy rains.

We should know … that’s what happened all throughout the Cinque Terre on October 25.