Still, it is good to be out. Now that the snow has stopped there is a glare in the deadeye white of the sky, and he squints, observing the vapor of his breath, standing at the foot of the rise where the birch stand huddled defensively against intruders such as he, supporting his sacrum with the heels of his hands. As always he begins by explaining what he has in mind and why, trying for a matter-of-fact tone, before apologizing, lowering his head and then lowering himself to his knees, the damp of the leaf litter a reassurance through the knees of his trousers, subvocalizing, waiting for the acknowledgment that never comes in the form of speech but simply in a cadence in his thoughts, a moment’s quiet when he senses that it is ok. Talking to myself, he says aloud and sets to, unshouldering his knapsack, freeing the kindling sling from the bungee lattice that runs down its dorsal aspect, shouldering that, pausing to switch sides so as to maintain a modicum of symmetry in the erosion of hips, shoulders, and intervertebral joints, scanning the ground for windfall, anything that might reduce his need to cut into a living tree. When he has filled the sling and emptied it into the knapsack he makes a second circuit, confirming that he has missed nothing. Then he makes a new loop among the mature birch, unarmed at first, looking for the scars made by his own coppicing, vaguely attentive to signs that some other party has been harvesting this stand. At length he selects an individual, younger than he, with a couple low branches that he can reach without shimmying, and returns with the bow saw. He does not need much, they can mix it with whatever litter is to be had within easy walking distance of the house, grasses even. Back at his knapsack he squats with one knee up and the other back, sawing the birch limbs into tractable lengths, propping them over the toes of his boot, then loads the sawed limbs into the knapsack, giving the thing a couple flicks, holding it by the rim, to settle its contents, fastening it with a couple too-long lengths poking out, rolling up the sling, fixing it to the bungee lattice, shouldering the knapsack and heading down without a backward glance.