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The threat of winter’s icy breath
drove us to working, furiously.
Splitting, stacking good dry oak
to stoke the stove, should the lights go out.
Me the splitter, hers to stack,
we set an easy rhythm
born of more than thirty years,
together, on this farm.
Toiling on, I placed another chunk up on the block
and paused to note just how the tree
had marked this history.
Counting from the center, out,
the growth rings numbered fifty-three,
and spoke of years both flush and lean,
shade for cows and suckling calves,
and acorns for wild turkeys.
Had I more time, I could have found
the ring that marked the year
two sons posed at that very tree
with a brown milk cow
whose blood still runs
in the cows I milk today.
As it was, I gave good thanks
for the blessing of that tree,
and the chance for us to warm our bones
while burning memories. 

(Reflection and photo: Bob Ernst, Plowshares Farm Center for Education and Spirituality)