Sunday, May 29, 2011

The Death of a Pine Grove

There are field people and there are woods people.  Without question, I am the latter. When I learned that the trees had to be removed to clear a spot for a barn, pasture and cornfield, I closed my eyes and concentrated on breathing. I could see the barn with hay spilling from an open loft and actually hear stomping hooves and clucking hens; however, it was not enough. Of course I love farming and miss the days when I had my own small farm complete with over fifty laying hens, a few randomly magnificent roosters, and a handful of mischievous goats and an unplanned, large population of bunnies straight from an Alfred Hitchcock movie scene.

Other than the bunnies, which were endearing at first, the farming experience was rewarding and incomparable to any other experience thus far. I long to have a farm again, so why can’t I jump up and down with glee at the thought of it?

Before this, I gained much of my insight, inspiration and groundedness from a pond alone. However, I fell in love with the ancient [Eastern White] pine grove the moment we met. The sacred grounds – a world of great magnitude and tranquility – became my private sanctuary. It was situated on a rolling hill carpeted with orange pine needles and huge, rich, moss covered granite rocks with a vast array of mushrooms scattered about on standing deadwood and stumps.

If magic exists, it does so in a pine grove such as this. It is shady and other worldly. The separation between light and shadows was bold and clearly defined. Sometimes when I stood close to a tree and looked up the straight, unending trunk, I sort of got a high. The limbs are out of reach and sway in the wind against the sky. Deep grooves in the gray bark beg for touch. Many of the great giants stand over 100 feet tall and were reserved in colonial times for making masts for the British Royal Navy, hence the local name Kingswood.

I found a place in the center of the grove where inhaling the dense, sweet, cool, air and exhaling to share with the rest of the world, eased my anxiety. I loved the trees so much that one day, for a few moments, I blushed in their presence. I stood in the middle of a wondrous community where I wanted to remain. At first I was a little embarrassed, which instantly reminded me of how much I needed to follow through. I decided to live up to my reputation. Who was judging other than me?

I hesitated, stepped forward and hugged the tree that stood boldly before me. At first it was very strange– so cliché – but it felt really good. It was true. I was an authentic tree hugger. I laughed and hugged tighter.

Every season, day and night, I visited the grove and viewed it through the kitchen window – I spend a great deal of time in my kitchen. One bitter clear night in January, I was awake at 3:00 A.M. staring at the full, bright moon flickering through the waving branches and exploding off of the snow. The peculiar silvery green hue – physics of the January moon illuminating the snowy pine grove – validated life as I knew it.

There was always a certain rush of air, somewhat musical, somewhat intentional. The sweet scent of pine ebbed and flowed. I have celebratory baskets of pine cones displayed here and there.

I knew that the logger would be coming soon. I paced up and down the hill; the usual whispering amongst the trees remained a consistent force.

The logger said, “If a pine grove is cleared, deciduous trees will replace them. It’s a good thing.” I discovered that it was true. But, it didn’t matter.

The clanking chains on the wheels of the skidder rattled within my solar plexus. I broke into a sweat as chain saws cut into the trees and then lopped off the limbs from the tree lying on the ground. Genocide.

Black flies and mosquitoes buzzed around my head, landing on the bare skin of my arms and neck, biting and stinging. I stood motionless watching as many as six trees at a time being hauled down the hill. My mouth was dry and my temples were throbbing when the logger waved at me from atop his skidder. I forced a weak smile. Every creak, groan and cracking of limbs tore at my insides. I gasped when the ground shook as each tree fell. I tried to think about other things.

I woke up with a start when I wondered how long a tree lived after the initial cut. Was death instant? Did the roots live? Did it feel pain?

I took a short video of progress at the end of each day in an effort to accept it. Lone survivors stood haphazardly in the remains of the grove anticipating their turn. The earth shuddered greatly when the grandfather – the grandest tree and one of the last to go – crashed to the ground.

Heaps of pine tree corpses are now strewn about the property awaiting their trip to the morgue. The sun shines brightly through the hole in the sky where the pine grove used to be.

The air is heavy and wet with bleeding pine pitch; nothing escaped a blanket of bright green pollen.

I will be grateful and work hard on the farm. I will avoid looking out the kitchen window for now. I must rely on the seeds of nearby hardwood trees for a promising future. I will not forget the pine grove, for it remains imprinted on my soul.

From the Journal: Babies Breath – Marigold

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