May apple parasols
spring up from the moist earth
pop open green hands
This Earth Day, we are replacing our cedar shake roof with metal shingles, exchanging endangered wood for recycled metal. We counted over a hundred growth rings on one of the thick, hand-split shakes. You can't find big trees like that anymore. And after 25 years of snow, ice, rain, sun and wind, the shakes are etched with lichens, carpeted with moss and split by the elements.
We have a great team of roofers. Jim stands about 5' 2" and weighs maybe 100 lbs. without his tool belt. Craig towers about 6' tall and weighs around 250 lbs. Jim works in the air, gamboling around the sloping roof like a mountain goat, occasionally using a thick turquoise rope like a rock climber. Craig works on the ground, carting 40 lb. sheets of fir plywood like an ox.
Jim warned me the first day: "If you have any flowers around the house, they're going to get smashed." Of course, my daffodils are all in full bloom and my irises and lilies are in full leaf. Sure enough, the first thing the roofers do is lay down tarps to catch the shingles. I'm in the kitchen when I see shingles showering down on my Ornamental Plum bush, which is covered with cotton candy blossoms, shattering petals in the air like pink snowflakes. I run out to the bush with a tarp. (Knowing this might happen, I took a photo of the bush before the roofers arrived.)
Jim wields a kind of flat shovel to pry the shingles off.
Craig stands at the top of the ladder to scoop them off the roof onto the tarp, while Jim pounds down the staples in the old tar paper underlayment.
Craig drags the tarp full of shakes over to a spot under a tree, thankfully past the colony of May Apples which have just raised their green parasols, and dumps them in a pile on top of the quilt of Spring Beauties and Violets. I cart load after load of broken shakes from the yard to the woodpile. "Why not leave them there?" Craig asks. "Because it's unsightly," I reply. "This is our main view from the house." And besides, my miniature daffodils are due to come up under that very tree in a matter of days.
After Jim has cleared off a section of old shingles and tacked down the black waterproof sheeting, Craig totes a sheet of plywood from the pile and slides it up the metal ladder to Jim (John helps whenever he can). Jim lifts the 4' x 8' sheet up all by himself, wrestles it around and plops the decking into place, then staples it down with an air gun. Jim raises cattle when he's not roofing (he's done both for 40 years), and I can imagine him wrangling a steer down single-handed for branding. Craig taught middle school physical education for 40 years, and I bet he could subdue a rambunctious adolescent with one hand, held at arm's length.
We live in a timber frame house with walls of clay mixed with straw and stone floors. Now we will add another earth element, metal, to our earthy house. This roof will last for hundreds of years, maybe longer than the house itself. And then, if the metal isn't recycled by some future generation of humans, it will simply sink back into the Earth from whence it came.