096 - gospel
Maria picked her axe back up. The well-worn wooden handle felt good in her gloved hands. It was one thing in the world which she could trust. With a heave and a ho, the blade of the axe made contact with the trunk of the tree that she had been working on. Bits of wood and bark flew off as the indentation grew a little larger.
She stopped after the single chop. She had been at it all afternoon, and it was tiring work. She would soon be finished for the day, but only after she felled this one. She stretched and flexed her arms slightly before once again grabbing the axe.
Another crack rippled through the tree as Maria swung again. And again. She could see the instability spreading through the wood, climbing up every bit of grain and vibrating the branches near the tree's crown. It would only take a few more times now.
Maria was breathing a bit more heavily now from the repeated blows she had inflicted. When she exhaled, her breath fogged up into a hazy white mist. It was getting colder these days, but she could still feel the sweat under her layers of clothes.
One more puff of breath, and then she put the axe back to its work. Once more wasn't quite enough, but she could feel it. She had done this enough times to simply know when it was almost over, and in this case, the tree didn't have much left before it gave way. Maria's tired muscles moved the axe into position once more, and this would turn out to the be the final time.
The axe did its business, and the tree began cracking and leaning beyond its limits. Maria stood back at a safe angle and watched the tree give way to the pull of gravity. She didn't bother to yell out "timber" or anything of the sort, since she was absolutely certain that she was the only soul within miles.
The tree fell slowly at first, lurching as if it might not even fall over in the end. But like all the others, after a few more moments, and a few more gradual snaps of wood, the large trunk tumbled down to the ground. When it finally reached the ground, it came to a rest in a cloud of dust and pine needles.
Maria dropped her axe to the ground and took a moment to enjoy the accomplishment. No matter how many times she had seen the exact same scene unfold, there was always a sense of completion that she felt when her target was finally felled. She looked it over, analyzing parts of the tree that she originally couldn't see from the ground. It was a good tree, and Maria knew she would get a lot of use out of it.
The day had been long. She looked out to the west and saw that the sun was already slipping past the ice-capped peaks. The shadows from the trees left standing were growing longer, and the whole world had a tinge of orange. There was hardly any daylight left, and Maria knew she didn't have any chance of hauling this log back today. It would have to wait until tomorrow.
Maria glanced back once more at the sun sinking past those mountains with the white caps on them. She reminded herself that it wouldn't be long until snow and frost covered everything here, too. That fact underscored the urgency of her work. She may be exhausted, but there would only be time to rest in the future if she gathered enough wood now.
She attempted to mark the spot of the felled tree in her memory, and began to trudge back to rest up for another hard day tomorrow.