It’s a Log’s Life
Once there was a cedar tree named Log who didn’t have much going for him. He lived with the same old family in the same old temperate rainforest in British Columbia. His grandparents were now grey and wizened, and his parents had just reached their tallest. Log even had a wife, who was his own size, and several small children. The forest was full of other families of this type; they made great communities. There were all sorts of animals and insects to look at. The flowers and moss were very pretty, and sometimes a spectacular light shone on everyone’s heads as the sun was sinking.
But to Log, these familiar surroundings had become boring rather than peaceful. He balked at the idea of growing old and useless and decrepit like his grandparents. He had seen some trees lying forlorn and humiliated on the forest floor, aged or struck by lightning, and gradually they were covered over until no one could even see them anymore. He thought his wife had begun to look alarmingly like all the other women in the cedar thicket. He watched his children endeavour to sink their roots deep into stationary earth and wanted to teach them to run and chase, like the squirrels in the forest. When he tried to change their ways they shook their leafy ringlets at him and giggled, “But Daddy, we’re not squirrels, we’re trees,” and said to one another in glee, “Ooh, feel how cool it is, way down deep! No, deeper! Ack! You’re tickling my toes!”
When Log complained of his yearnings to his wife, she groaned. “Oh, Log, you’re always thinking of negative things.”
“That’s just it,” he persisted. “I’m not thinking of negative things. I’m trying to think positively about our future.”
“Look. Just because our roots touch closely and our branches intertwine doesn’t mean you are forced to stay here with me and the children,” she sniffed. Her leaves jingled as she turned away in a huff.
“Oh come on now, don’t go putting on a guilt trip . . .”
“I’m not. I’m just saying.” Her friends interrupted then, and she made a point of ignoring Log for the remainder of the day.
Log just sighed and minded his own business. But he so wanted to get out of this forest and see the world! He wanted open seas, open skies, open roads. He wanted to meet other trees that were not cedars, on journeys of their own. He was tired of family get-togethers and community potlucks, the endless games of ‘Spot The Bird’ and ‘I’m Taller Than You Are’ that everyone found enthralling except him.
Then one day, Log’s luck changed. A logging company came into the forest and began selectively cutting down trees, one from this family, one from that. The cedar thicket was in an uproar over it. One of Log’s best pals got cut down, and as the friend passed by within the claws of some strange machine he hissed, “Log! Here’s your chance, man.”
“Doesn’t it hurt?” asked Log in bewilderment.
“Don’t be silly!” his friend replied. “It only hurts if you let it.”
So the next time Log noticed the foreman prowling in search of great cedars, he shook his leaves and took care to puff himself up majestically.
“Psst. Foreman,” he whispered. “Take me, I’ll make excellent furniture!”
But the foreman wanted to pass up Log for Log’s dad, who was taller and thicker.
“Aw, that old man?” cajoled Log in a low voice. “He’s almost rotting already, from the inside out. Trust me. I’m the tree for the job: young, strong, supple . . .”
Log’s wife noticed his antics and felt very upset and betrayed. “After all these years I’ve stood by you,” she said in tears. “All you want to do is leave me.”
“Don’t worry, babe,” said Log as he got chopped down. “We’ll meet again.”
“Oh, I’m sure,” huffed his wife. But truthfully, she was beginning to think about the alternatives: Well, there are lots of trees in the forest . . . I’d better look for someone around here, since I don’t want a long distance relationship. With that in mind, she bade a polite but chilly farewell to Log. As he was carried away by the machine his children laughed at him, saying, “There goes Daddy, oops, he’s left his feet behind! Ooh, dig deep! Don’t his toes feel strange without him?”
Soon moss and young saplings were growing out of the stump. Everyone forgot about him for the most part, except at family gatherings when trees would share stories and folklore about Vagabond Log, the cedar who opted for adventure.
Meanwhile, Log was busy being shaved and stripped at the log factory. Since he was a cedar, he would not be mulched and ground and turned into paper like some of the other, cheaper trees. No, Log was going to be chopped and sanded and fitted together to become a beautiful chest or wardrobe. At the same time as he looked forward to this change, Log also worried that it would never satisfy his curiosity about the big, wide world. How, as a piece of furniture, would he ever become the traveller he was in his heart?
Then Log’s luck changed again. After he was stripped of his branches and leaves – “Silly nuisances anyway,” he thought as they were carted off – Log was transported by tugboat down the Fraser River to a log yard at the mouth of English Bay. On the way, he met another adventurous log whose name was Wentworth.
“Which way are you heading?” Wentworth asked Log when they came alongside each other.
“I’m going to become a piece of furniture.” The note of dissatisfaction was audible in Log’s voice.
“Well of course you’re supposed to become a piece of furniture, man. But where are you heading – out to the open sea? to the Island? to Wreck Beach?”
“I don’t know,” replied Log in bewilderment. “Where are you heading?”
Wentworth had it all planned out. He was going to attempt his breakaway just before the tugboat reached the log yard. “It can’t be too soon or too late, man. Too soon means you end up floating back through English Bay and down the river again. Too late, on the other hand, means you’ll get stuck between the breakers where they’ll notice you right away and drag you back . . .” Wentworth rolled in exasperation. “Chains, nails, or roots, it’s always one thing or another!”
“You’re telling me,” replied Log in solidarity. “Maybe I’ll try to get out into the open sea.”
“That’s good, because I’m going to need a hand escaping,” said Wentworth enthusiastically. “And so are you, man.”
“Is it that difficult?”
“Well, not difficult . . . Just tricky, that’s all. Really, man, everything is what you make it, generally.”
Log smiled. How good it was to be a tree. So much was out there to experience, and all it required was the willingness on his part to endure and persevere. Most trees that want to live, really live, thought Log.
So he and Wentworth, with a bit of manoeuvring and cooperation, slipped out of the ranks. They rolled over and under the other logs, some of whom groaned and grunted while others just grinned lightheartedly and wished them luck. After they had wriggled free of the last cable that bound them to the group, and to their previous destinies, Log and Wentworth lazed about in the sea for a few moments. The troop of logs slowly gained distance and the two pals enjoyed a refreshing, unrestricted oneness with the waves.
Wentworth yawned, rolled over and looked at Log intently. “What do you say, man? Wreck Beach? I hear it’s a total paradise.”
“Well . . .” Log hesitated a long time, stretching with comfort in the rolling sea. “I’m not sure I feel like lying around. I’ve been standing all my life, I want movement.”
“But Wreck is a true legend,” protested Wentworth. “Everyone’s been there, man, the oldest pieces of driftwood sit around and tell stories, there’s music, sunsets, humans all around.”
“Tons of ’em!”
“Never been around humans much.”
“Aw, they’re just logs that move more, Log. Nothing to be afraid of.”
Log considered carefully what might await him at Wreck Beach. Suddenly, though, a vision came to him revealing a vast stretch of water under a sky endless with silver and blue, and himself just a log, never drowning in his journey across the Pacific.
“Could I really float across the ocean?” Log blurted, betraying his train of thought.
Wentworth chuckled. “I think you’re stuck on the open sea, man. No hard feelings, eh?” Smiling languidly he began rolling toward land. Log floated in the other direction.
As evening fell, he thought for a moment of his wife and children. He seemed to hear their chatter from within a dark, damp thicket as though he were a ghost hovering near the ring of his community. What would his wife be doing? Chatting in a low nighttime voice with friends, their gossip strung along by the crickets’ tweaking. Soothing the children so they would sleep the night through. The kids must have grown already, Log mused.
He pitied everyone, the sameness of their lives under a constant sky, in constant surroundings. The funerals and accidents were all the same, and the conversations too. They would grow and change slowly, with the Earth. But Log would change with water, and with wind! Soon his skin would be smooth and white, chiselled to a bone by the elements. His wife and children would die shrouded in ragged rot, with sweat and sap on their brows. Not Log . . .
Gaining distance from Wentworth, the log yard and English Bay, he drowsily aimed his body in line with the southwestern current directed around Vancouver Island. The open sea. This was the life. This was the life . . . The forest, life in the forest, this is me! Log, rooted, stuck, let me out . . . Sprouting legs, long legs, walking, stomping away from the forest, through puddles, dragging his children with him by their hands, they have sprouted feet and are running, chasing, Log is walking into the sea, walking, never sinking, it’s me! Sinking
Log woke with a start in the black water. He shivered, then smiled to himself, feeling the water curl around him deliciously. What a night for travel, Log thought. A vast airy sky above allowed him all the space in the world. Everything disappeared behind the glass and metal that surrounded him in the midst of a silence plain and stark, like an echo, which caused him to recall the contrasting whispery chatter of the forest.
Vancouver Island floated by on the Juan de Fuca Strait and Log awoke on a calm sea buffeted lightly by southwesterly winds. A few ships trundled by loaded with goods, and several seagulls rested on him.
Suddenly Log happened upon another log in the middle of the sea, and the meeting shattered all silence because the other log was weeping loudly. With concern Log neared him.
“What’s the matter, man?” he investigated gently. He tapped the other guy.
“Life sucks,” came the muffled reply.
“But why!?” asked Log in surprise.
“I don’t have much going for me.”
Incredulous, Log proceeded to list all the obvious reasons why the fellow shouldn’t be upset: freedom, opportunity, blue skies . . .
“What are you talking about, freedom?” lamented the other guy. “I was torn out of the ground against my will and taken from my wife and children. I’ll never see them again! I’ll never hear the sound of rain dripping from my wife’s beautiful boughs.” He shuddered and rolled over with a loud sob.
Log felt a catch in his throat. He hadn’t realised other trees might feel so strongly about their roots. This guy would be perfect for my wife, he thought guiltily.
Why couldn’t things be different? Why couldn’t he have been born a squirrel or a whale, or best of all, a human with legs to take him everywhere? As it was, he had to rely on wind and waves or other natural disasters and although they generally came through for him, some days Log couldn’t help wanting to be still more on the move. Yet this poor guy was forced out of his own, restful joy and condemned to wander the earth in utter loneliness. Why couldn’t he have been born a big boulder, destined to collect moss for a thousand years undisturbed?
“Well, after all, we can’t choose our destinies, man,” Log sighed, and gave the guy a comforting nudge. “All we can do is make the best of it.” He thought of Wentworth, who by now must be basking in the sun on Wreck Beach, surrounded by ageless driftwood and happy humans.
“You’ve got to try for the best and act on what comes to you,” he finished. In his mind he thought pityingly, Maybe he hasn’t tried hard enough. After all, Wentworth and I got what we wanted.
The other guy sniffled a bit and blurted, “Aw, that’s what they say.”
“You and everyone, man!” said the guy. “You guys just don’t appreciate what it is to be a tree. Committed to his family, committed to his forest.”
“Hmm. I guess you’re right,” admitted Log. “I don’t even feel sad when I think of my children, never mind my wife.”
“My kids, I’ll never see my kids again,” wept the other log. “They must be so big by now. I don’t get to see how they’ll turn out.”
The two logs were floating together toward Asia and the wind was picking up behind them. White clouds scudded like herds of sheep across the sky.
“I wouldn’t even worry about that,” counselled Log. “Look, man, they’ll grow up, they’ll be tall trees, they’ll look like everyone else in the wood.”
“Oh, I don’t know. You should have seen my Melissa, so strong and lithe . . .”
Why did his new travelling companion focus so much on the past? Log didn’t know, but at the same time he felt an urge to pacify the other guy, make him understand the possibilities and buck up to the future. Otherwise he’s going to bemiserable, thought Log.
“Look, tell you what,” he said patiently. “Why don’t we at least finish this trip together? We can be buds. Partners. I just don’t want you to go on so lonely and dejected all your life. So if I can help . . .”
The other guy became brightly teary and sentimental. “I’m so glad we came across each other, man. You’re the only good thing that’s happened through this whole disaster.”
“Aw, don’t mention it,” replied Log graciously, and then introduced himself formally. “I’m Log, by the way.”
“My name’s Tree.”
They continued along together after that and eventually the guy cheered up. He was intelligent and a good storyteller, as most trees are.
It wasn’t too long before they reached the Asian landmass because they enjoyed a southwesterly tailwind and for a couple of days followed in the draught of a large ship. After they passed Micronesia, Log began to consider setting up on a beach somewhere for a rest.
Miraculously, the sun had shone throughout his entire journey across the Pacific. And although Tree seemed to encounter difficulty with even the slightest roll of a wave, Log had not become seasick once.
Just as they reached the islands around Indonesia, however, a tropical storm started brewing. Clouds thickened rapidly, building up a dark agitation in their midst. The sea foamed and turned an ominous grey, the tips of waves rising as if to meet the tiny slips of rain that now began to pelt down. Wind pitted itself against the water, whirling and sweeping, and the two drifting logs could not stay on one side or another of themselves.
Log heard the miserable groans of Tree, who was bumping over the mounting waves, and he grinned as he was jostled about. “You just have to roll with it, man,” he called over encouragingly.
Almost magically, the storm arrived at full force and tossed them about recklessly. In the midst of thunder, lightning and tidal waves, Log and his friend were dashed to a thousand splinters each on the rocky shores of some small Indonesian island.
Under the hard rain, the pieces of Log rejoiced.
“Glorious, it’s glorious!” they shouted to one another. “Now we’ll be able to go anywhere in the world, one piece at a time.” Some of them would know the ocean floor and all its wonders, while others would rise as dust into the sky. Chunks would rest on the beach and splinters would make it back to the forest. Log in all his pieces finally knew wholeness.
Tree, of course, was shattered in more ways than one. His pieces made futile attempts to rejoin and were only tossed further apart in the roiling sea. The wind laughed at them, and they heard Log’s glee and felt more forlorn than ever. In utter despair, they failed to realise that their disintegration implied a greater chance of someday returning home.