The Pre-grading Site Meeting (a bureaucratic and expensive county requirement that cost us more engineering fees) took place on August 8th. I brought fresh home-brewed coffee. I should have brought cookies. But we got it done.The mobilization of the big machines to the job site began on the 16th of August, and the actual work began the next day, with removing stumps and taking down the large trees in the area to be graded. The first thing I saw when I arrived that day was a tangle of felled trees laying across the future driveway. At the top of the hill ahead, a bulldozer labored mightily to remove the huge stump of the tree that Shannon had dubbed the Cathedral Tree -- a large and beautiful Big Leaf Maple that was unfortunately simply in the wrong place and so could not stay. The trunk that remained rose to long jagged shards several feet above the roots -- the Cathedral Tree had shattered when it was taken down. The roots spread in a huge circle that seemed bigger in diameter than the bulldozer. As I watched, the heavily rooted stump was removed from the earth and transported down the hill toward us, to the place off the driveway where the stumps and such would be piled. It left a large hole.When the crew came to meet us, Glad went to greet them, and they seemed instantly charmed. But they also saw the huge tumor on her leg. When I started to explain, I learned that they had heard she had bone cancer and would be buried at Haven soon -- I had told Matt and he had let them know. They were very kind, and also sad.
Those first few days of grading were the last days of Galadriel's life, and I brought her with me to Haven daily. I needed to be there, at Matt's advice, to see and have input into what was done, answer any questions, and to select out some pieces of felled trees to seal for future use. Galadriel and I spent most of our time in the sacred burial grounds, where we had laid a bed for her and set up a table and chairs for us.
This was an exciting time with regard to the daily visible changes I saw at Haven, but also a very difficult time for Lee and I. I called a vet on the 18th, and made an appointment for Galadriel's good death at Haven on the 20th, that Saturday. So taking photos of the grading was far from my mind, and now I regret that.
This was the most chaotic, messy part of the job -- destruction in the service of creation -- as trees were felled and stumps pulled from the earth and hauled to the pile. The back hoe would dig in, grasp the stump, pull it up, shake it and drop it to get most of the dirt off, and load it unto a tracked hauler til the hauler was piled with stumps and roots and felled branches to take away and dump in our woods.
The scent of the newly opened, rich moist earth was wonderful, so heady one could almost taste it. It was intoxicating. I would open my mouth and breathe in deeply, savoring it.
There were several very large, tall trees, alder, big leaf maple, fir, willow, etc., along the south side of the dwelling pad, providing shade from the sun -- too much shade, for we needed the sun for the garden. So, though it was hard for me to do, I asked the crew to take them all down. It was the right decision, but the contrast was stark. Some stumps remain on a knoll overlooking the dwelling pad, and we are thinking of putting a statue of Pan on the largest, tallest one, while saving the others for seating.
Soon the expanse of stump stubble that we and our friends had created had all been pulled, and the large trees felled, processed and stacked.
They began removing the topsoil, setting it aside -- and there was a humungous amount of it! I gathered some gnarly wavy roots for future craft projects, and sealed a large chunk of the Cathedral Tree's main trunk, for Shannon to carve as she had requested. The road was gradually roughed in.
Every day, the crew would make sure I could drive onto the site and park somewhere that they were not working, so Galadriel would not have to walk the hill up to the site. They assured me they wouldn't be there on Saturday. I thought Randy might tear up as he petted Galadriel, and told her she was a good dog.
That Saturday was very hot, and Haven in the grading area already looked very different. There was virtually no shade in the future dwelling pad area, and the ground was rough and getting dusty.
So where we were under the trees with Galadriel -- Lee and I and Scott and Shannon, and eventually the vet -- was significantly cooler. Galadriel ran there when we arrived, and had a good last day there. Lee, Scott and Shannon fed her treats as I finished stitching her shroud, and we talked about the grading, Haven, and her. Tears ran, as well as sweat, when she was finally gone and we buried her, singing her to her next place.
The fine whiskey Shannon brought for her wake served not only to celebrate her life and provide something like solace in our grief, but also to bless the land of Haven, that was undergoing such changes.