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Franz L Kessler

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The Last Ax Blow
By Franz L Kessler
Monday, January 05, 2015

Rated "G" by the Author.

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Must it happen? Can it happen? Will it happen?

On a gentle Sarawak hill-slope facing east, there is an orchard of lemon, lime and orange trees I planted during the last years. In 2009, shortly after we had purchased the land, the area looked different. An area of some four acres of land had been overgrown by a thicket of thorny shrubs and trees that stood very close. Crossing the plot took me about one hour in those days. It was no romantic tropical jungle one dreams of. I decided to clear the land, and cut the thicket bit by bit. It turned out to be very tiring job I took on with helpers and friends, mostly over weekends. Gradually we managed to clear the land from thicket, but there remained one area which eluded my efforts.

There, in the center of the plot stood a group of seven high trees, their canopy interwoven with myriads of vines that held the trees together is some form of a web. The ground level was overgrown with thorny shrubs, and harbored some very aggressive ant nests and black-and-yellow ground hornets.
First I lay fire to clear access to the group of trees. As I cut the first tree, it refused to fall but instead kept dangling on the standing trees. One by one I cut and felled the other trees, but these also refused to fall and hugged one last tree that stood above the others, farther up on the slope. Although the many vines crackled and occasionally snapped up in the canopy, indicating immense load and pressure, the group of trees appeared standing firm knotted to each other by a matrix of wines, and resisting my efforts.
High up in the canopy, this web was out of reach and there was nothing I could do. Only slightly bent, the last tree stood perfectly normal, but it felt uneasy and somewhat eerie.

As I moved to the last tree, words of my wife came to my mind: “Watch out when the trees hang together, many people here got killed that way.” I approached the tree with caution. It carried now a weight in the order of fifty tons, or perhaps even more. I placed myself as far away as possible and landed the first cut with my heavy ax. What happened next was of a nature, I could never have expected:
At the first blow, the tree made a terribly chilling sound as it literally exploded, splintered, twisted off and shot by next to me. The entire plot of seven trees came thundering down, and the earth shook under the impact of fifty or more tons.
As the dust and ash settled, I looked flabbergasted at the heap of broken trees around me that could have easily taken my life.

Only a few years later, a frightening thought crossed my mind. What if people, families, society were to behave the same way? How many people in this world are standing upright and supporting the weight of many others, uprooted and just hanging-on?

© 2015 Franz L Kessler

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Reviewed by Ronald Hull 1/6/2015
The world will come tumbling down around us long before we cut the last tree. Large areas of uncleared land (wilderness) must remain everywhere in the earth if we are to maintain the biodiversity that is our sustenance.

I think you meant "vine" instead of "wine."


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