COTANGENT – By Daphne Cardillo
I like cutting long branches of trees under the sun, with my right arm getting stronger from playing tennis. A thirty-minute slashing job under the heat could even substitute for a one good game for it is so relieving after I bathed myself in heavy sweat. And my backhand slice is put into good use as each slashing stroke makes a clean cut of a branch.
At the back of my yard grow several malunggay plants that line the concrete fence. The branches, with their tiny leaves drape the air for my eyes to see, screening the roofs and walls of houses from my view. Having spent my childhood in the countryside, I need trees around with their green foliage. But living in the city with houses so close to each other, the malunggay trees afford me a nuance of green, rising over twenty feet high without blocking the sunlight into other people’s homes.
The malunggay branches however spread so fast in a few months time that they would need trimming every now and then. And it was here that I discovered the enjoyable task of cutting the branches, reducing what once looked like a forest into a pile of sticks. While the slashing job is a relieving form of exercise, stretching the muscles at your back and strengthening your arms as you heavily perspire.
Once I hired a neighbor to prune the branches but he did a messy job of leaving rough edges on the trunk and destroying the orchids planted on the lower portion of the malunggay plant. So I took to task the trimming of the branches myself, expectant of the fulfilling experience I derive from doing the job. I even had to cut papaya trees that need to be felled, myself so as not to leave much damage to the other plants grown in the yard.
Pruning is an art, and a system in which you have to study the whole structure of the plant to be able to trim it with proportion, leaving enough branches for a good view yet cutting the unnecessary ones that have grown in abundance. I usually cut a big branch along the trunk with a saw so as to leave a clean finish. The spreading branches that dropped to the ground I later cut with a pointed bolo, trimming first the extended small branch before chopping the main big branch.
When I’m really up to it, cutting the branches into small pieces is a challenging and enjoyable task. It feels good when you can cut clean a branch with just one sweep of the bolo. At times, I’d need three to four strokes to cut a big branch. But normally, it would take only two slashing jobs and I like to finish it with a backhand slice. And when you cut the small thin branches with a clean, swift stroke; the newly-cut end would swirl up in the air before landing on the ground.
Last week though, I hired someone to cut the main big branches of the malunggay plants. They have grown so big and copious that it became a daunting task to disentangle them from the main trunk. But cutting the felled branches into small pieces I reserved for myself. And it was only this morning that I took to task of reducing what once looked like a forest into a pile of sticks.
For when I first saw the felled branches sprawled on the ground, they occupied half of my yard in a tangled mess. I was overwhelmed at the sight that I postponed cleaning them up for another day, and another, and another. Then after a week of lying dead on the ground, the branches looked like skeletons, a bit dried and brittle, with leaves long gone. It cleared my view.
So this morning I started cutting them into small pieces, about two feet in length, and made two piles—one big pile for the numerous small branches and another for the bigger ones. I started cutting at the less dense portion to have a sense of accomplishment of having cleared part of the yard. I cut and cut and cut, making small sticks from out of a forest, and the smallest branch would swirl up in the air before landing on the ground.