In the daylight hours there is too much to do to write to you, dear readers. And at night, well at night there is also too much too do. Lately I have little more than a few sentences and pictures to offer you. Despite the snow Saturday, it is Spring. Things Are Happening. It Is Beautiful.
My muscles ached from carrying meter-long stumps, still heavy will water.
The wind had ripped several trees out of the ground in the courtyard across the street, and the chainsaws of the university’s grounds people got the rest.
I stalked the construction site entrance for hours before I saw someone who I could talk to. The person I found was Gregor, dressed in red overalls. “Those stumps lying back behind the building, can I have them?” I asked through the grid of construction-site fencing.
His German was hard to understand, accented with Polish sounds, or maybe Russian. He would ask his boss, he told me, and come by later to let me know. I assumed I would never see him again.
A month ago some univer- sity people felled a tree across the street. They needed room for their metal construction-office cont- ainers, now piled two high in the place of grass and tree. When we asked about the tree stumps they told us that, no *snort of disdain*, we couldn’t have them. Then they shredded them into mulch and threw it all away.
But Man in Red did come back later, and he had good news. “You can have all the wood you can carry. Tomorrow we put it all in a container. Trash, you understand?”
I nodded, all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed at the thought of free heat. He took a step closer to me, “You live over there?” He pointed toward the wagenplatz.
“You live with other people? ”
“Umm, there are about fifteen of us, if that’s what you’re asking.”
“No, no, women.” I was beginning to guess what he was getting at. I had hoped he wasn’t going to go there. There is a certain kind of man who assumes any favor he does for a woman should be rewarded with sex. A lift offered on Craig’s List, a drink, or talking to the boss about giving away some trash from the construction site; the details of the favor are irrelevant. “Women, you understand? You know, brothel? Brothel.”
“No.” I was not in the mood for this conversation. I am never in the mood for this conversation.
“But you, you live alone?”
“I live with my husband,” I told him dryly. (Ha! Husband! It is hard to say that word with a straight face.)
“But other women?”
“Sorry, no idea what you’re talking about. But hey, listen, I’m going to go start hauling wood then. Thanks a lot for talking to your boss. I’ll see you around.”
I hauled one load in a tiny hand-cart before getting The Doctor and the tractor for the rest. (I wish I was an ant.) Man in Red came out on the balcony of the building they are emptying to watch. I waved. Eight more men emptied onto the two neighboring balconies and lit cigarettes, leering.
“I feel like we’re in the zoo.” We started loading stumps onto the trailer while the balcony men yelled to others who were cutting down a tree behind the tractor.
A burst of laughter came from above. The Doctor speaks a little Polish. “They just said something about whores, I caught the words whore and work,” she told me across the birch stump we were carrying.
“Construction workers certainly are good at reinforcing their own stereotypes.”
There were at least 8 cords of wood for the taking, so we called in reinforcements. As soon as a few men showed up, the balcony men stopped their cat-calling and went back inside. If I had a category called “Why I Hate the Patriarchy,” this would be one of the many stories filed in it.
The good news, however, is that we hauled wood for hours (results pictured here) and haven’t even managed the half of it. And in three years it’ll be ripe (re: dry enough) for burning, and we’ll have enough wood to heat several community wagons for the entire winter.