Every morning I get up, face the mirror and repeat the same words.

“You can do it, buddy. It ain’t easy, but you can do it.”

The mirror image looks back at me and mumbles: “No, you can’t.”

“Yes, I can,” I insist.

“No, you can’t.”

“Yes, I can.”


After 10 minutes or so with that act, I hang a towel over the mirror and go to work.

With a mouthful of coffee and rheumy eyes, I face the issues and scan the several things out to kill me — omicron, cars on my way to get the mail, ice in the driveway — and devise ways to avoid them.

As my mother once said, “It’s always somethin’.”

Today, I find myself dealing with the ongoing infestation of the poisonous browntail moth. What? Those things again?

Thanks to the public library in Waterville, a solution is in the making. But what? I spoke to a pleasant young librarian named Jen who told me I could bring my library card and borrow one of the two kinds of tree saws they have in stock to wage war on the moth nests in my trees, if I can recognize them.

J.P. Devine has a saw and clippers ready to prune browntail moth nests from nearby branches. Photo by J.P. Devine

I remember a hand-size tree branch saw I bought years ago, that’s now somewhere in the garage, still in the original wrapping.


Right now I am out here in my Bean boots, knee deep in soft new snow trying to identify the two most prominent trees my newspaper has labeled as lairs of the offending nests, in oaks and apple trees.

I am recording this on the iPhone She made me carry in case I should fall, which I’ve already done three times.

I search first for an apple tree. I don’t know what an apple tree looks like, but I suspect, being a fruit tree, it must seasonally bear fruit.

But by now I would have harvested the fruit, set up a box at the end of the driveway and made enough money to put myself through beauty school so that I can trim my wife’s hair properly.

I’ll try oak trees. I’m not an arborist, and have no idea what an oak looks like and couldn’t tell one from a maple, ash, beech, butternut, or aspen (I Googled those names). But Dave, my lawn guy, once told me that I have two oaks, so they’ve gotta be around here somewhere.

Birch trees are easy to identify. They are tall and thin and white with black stripes. I know, because years ago in New York, I appeared in Chekov’s “The Cherry Orchard” that had a stage full of fake birches.


I know birches.

It’s getting dark, the winds are picking up and it would pretty hard to see a moth nest in this dark. But I plod on.

Then She knocks on the window and holds up a bottle of Stella Artois and an egg roll. I think about the guy in the mirror.

I picture the story in tomorrow’s paper: “Old man holding iPhone and saw found dead in snow drift.”

I’m going for the Stella and egg roll.


J.P. Devine is a Waterville writer. 

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