I do however have a motorized fetish that reeks of hypocrisy and blue smoke. It's my 18-inch bar Husqvarna chainsaw. My eardrum splitting, gas and oil chugging, wood chip spewing, mechanical beaver. The saw tames nature's havoc, freeing my favorite mountain bike trail from a tangle of downed poplar trees, opens garden plots to the rays of the sun, and bucks 100-foot tall trees into the eighteen inch logs that I split and burn to heat my house.
A chainsaw is an essential tool if you live in rural Vermont. But my chainsaw is more than utilitarian. I feel powerful and focused when I am sawing, conquering towering massive trees—all in the name of household chores. I put on my chaps, boots, ear protection, the hardhat with the metal mesh face protector, and I jerk the cord sending the blade into a spinning roar. The sensation is the same as peering past my ski tips into a steep and narrow couloir. I lay the blade into the wood and it bites into the bark, then it drives into the sapwood, the heartwood. It bucks in my hands and I lean into it with all my weight pressing the bar into the flesh of the tree, revealing the concentric beauty of the wood.
The occasional onlooker stands respectfully back and watches me, a woman with her chainsaw, turn a tangled mess into a neat pile of logs punctuated by a circle of pulpy spray. My chainsaw is part of my identity. I tune the chain much as I meticulously clean my bike after a leg-burning ride. Sweat, burning wood, gasoline, and chain oil are my backwoods perfume.
by Berne Boudy
From the Spring 2011 issue