On a warm day in winter he leaves the house early. His gloves today are work gloves, not those insulated mitts that he wore yesterday and will have to wear again tomorrow. Today, according to a promise he made to himself, he carries the axe out to the corner of the clearing and begins swinging again into that wedge cut that he began months ago, before the first snow came. Years ago, decades ago, he would never have left this job half done. Back then he would have exerted himself until the old stump, bigger around than a muck-bucket, was completely down. Back then he would have awakened a day later with no symptom from the work; no sore back, no lingering fatigue.
But time is a teacher and now he knew that work that needed to be done could be done in increments, as strength and weather allowed. As he labors he looks at the unclouded sky and the light as it enlivens the trees around and everything it touches. And he thinks of coming spring and of the days past when this stubborn stump would have been gone in an hour.