NR Digital

Country Life

Into the Woods

by Richard Brookhiser

Every month I get a haircut; every decade my property gets a tree cut. This was a regular feature of old-time husbandry, as reflected in fiction or correspondence where one reads of landowners and their woodlots. In a famous letter, Machiavelli includes tending to his woodlot as part of his daily rural routine, along with hearing the gossip and playing tric-trac; at night he dreamed of ancient Athens and Cesare Borgia. It would be pompous for a weekend gardener with 22 acres to speak of his woodlot, but the trees do need culling from time to time.

The oldest trees on my land are three big maples, in a cleft watered by the seasonal stream. They grew to fullness because there was no other use to which that land could be put. When I bought the property, one had toppled down long ago, its trunk barkless, shattered, rotting. Its fellows each had a circumference of 20 feet. One has since lost a significant branch, almost a half of itself. But every spring its remainder and its companion still put out leaves so high they cannot be identified with the naked eye.

Send a letter to the editor.