A dozen or so years ago, my family and I went down east Maine over Thanksgiving. My cousin’s family were into the wreath making business back then, and on one November’s morning, my cousin’s husband asked my son and I if we would like to join him to go tipping. This was the task of collecting tips from the branches of fir trees, to use for making wreaths. The trick was to only snap off a short part of the tips, so as to leave the trees in good shape to grow and keep supplying tips for the seasons to come. Upon snapping the tips, you would stuff the tips down onto a long stick until it was filled from top to bottom, approximately six feet tall. The Tipping Stick had a rope tied on one end that was used to secure the tips to the stick. Hauling a couple of these out of the woods was quite a chore, seeing as how the sticks, when filled, could weigh roughly fifty pounds each. .
I didn’t do too well tipping, I mean, I collected the tips fast enough, and filled a tipping stick or two, but I was snapping the tips too long for making really good wreaths. They required those making the wreaths to snap them again to bring them to the correct length.
The line in the poem referring to the Empty Rings is describing the steel rings that are used to make the wreaths. Until the tips were collected and taken to the wreath making shop, the empty rings sat stacked up in a corner, all alone and patiently awaiting the arrival of the fresh tips.
Anyway, a few years ago, we lost the best tipper that down east Maine ever knew, and this poem is dedicated to him.
The Tipping Stick
A Poem dedicated to Si
Trudge on, into the wood at daylights first call
The smell of the morning fir awakens the spirit
Daydreams of autumn unfold onto a shimmering dew
Eyes from the trees build with curiosity from above
Daylight’s growing rays scatter through branch and limb
With sticks at hand, and readied, the gathering begins
Through, over, around, into, under and beyond
Snap and pull, twist and push, pack and stack
Pausing to listen, the harmonies of the winds continue their song
Grace from high above settles a comforting hand onto the morn
Footsteps crisp with crackling leaf echo through the rolling wood
One by one, the tipping sticks fill with scent and shape
A white tailed gaze sends a charge through the heart
Tiny, scampering feet bring a warming smile
Morning doves and jays dance their chorus through the fir
Woodpecker and chick a dee tag along with familiar tune
Chilled breeze through the autumn wood bids a welcoming call
White birch lean in as they watch with curiosity
Morning shadows shorten as the day grows tall
Heavied sticks carry with them the magical smells of the season
Empty holiday rings patiently await the scented harvest
Hearty smiles reward and praise the morning’s heavy chore
As the sticks are emptied, the wooded fir sings out again with its beckoning call
A chilled November breeze welcomes the tipping footsteps once again