What have they seen?

Got the details of what is going on in the woods behind the house yesterday. We’ve heard the angry buzzing of chainsaws and the shattering crash of trees falling, followed by the whine of the giant sawmill. I can only imagine the mountain of sawdust they are building (first of many). The lunar landscape that will be left once they leave. Shattered remains of once towering creatures. The loggers have come to slaughter/harvest the awakening/mature stand of trees that backs up to our property and fills the center of the block we live on (3.5 mile drive around it). They will likely follow the maxim of “16 inches or better, 12 inches above the ground.” That is pretty much all of them. A grand cathedral shattered to make pallets.

The way I learned the details was the ominous pink flagging tape and spray paint that showed up along our western property line. It’s a weird piece of property we live on. Mostly a big regular rectangle for most of the 12 acres, there is a 60×1000′ stretch that goes off into the hills behind us. Once, the farmer wanted to square off their piece. They sold this weird sliver to their neighbor.  He raised cows and kept them along the road while his crops were buried back in the behind.  Hilly and filled with streams, what few flattish spots there were got put under the plow. This stopped when the  property changed hands to the present owners. The cows left and the paddock and fields grew into the juvenile trees there now (6-8″). Likely the few large trees at the very back were cut with that sale because along our long strip, out in the back of behind, the trees are wrist thick and barely shoulder width apart. The piece that changed hands contains the fence line trees. A few of them are over 4′ in diameter. Tremendous oaks, gnarled by the century, they have stood sentinel over the confluence of the nameless water path that cuts and defines the place. The trees are as alive and awake as any I’ve ever met. Their faces evident, their temperament apparent. They are marked with “NOT THIS ONE” paint blobs. For once I’m happy to see the blob on the tree.  ALL the largest trees are on this slice. Those adjacent are large to be sure. A few barely pushing past 24″. All of them higher than 70′. But these few fence line behemoths will dodge the axe again. Their bottom 6′ of wood is riddled with barbed wire, nails and bullets. This alone renders them suspect to begin with. In this case though, it’s their presence just south on an imaginary demarkation, MINE,  NOT MINE, that will spare them. These trees will not be harmed on my watch. The rest of them will fall and I can only stand by and witness their demise. Private property.

I feel like a friend is dying. Worse in a way. When a friend dies, their arms and legs don’t lay in the yard next-door  for years.

These trees were just starting to wake up.  I could feel time passing back there. I could almost hear it passing. Standing under the canopy of a mature stand like that is awe inspiring. Knowing that if they were allowed another century, they could more than double their size. If only they were left alone. But no. Not to be this time. They loggers are working the area pretty hard right now. The pallet shops must be drowning in raw materials.

So here is the thing. None of this is personal. It’s not directed at me. It’s not vengeance from an angry god for greats crimes committed by myself or my family or humanity. It’s someone else’s decisions about their own affairs. I think they are making a terrible mistake. From the way I’ve seen what little passes for “management” of that property over the years, this decisions is as short sighted as most. Giant heaping mounds of fish guts, scales and bones. 4-wheeler and snowmobile  raceways. Not the life choices I’m drawn towards to begin with. Which all means, the trees will fall. Monies will change hands. The world spins on. It’s all happened before. It will all happen again. Lake Erie was lapping on a beach about  mile south of us, 14,000 years ago. That was after the 2-mile thick sheet of ice that was here for a while. This isn’t the first, or third, time this land has been cleared. The short pink skins have been crawling through these woods since the 1700s. (or somewhere around there) Crawling though them and cutting them down. Even the giants back on the strip aren’t pre-Western-Reserve. Those giants were acorns when the land was first plowed. They shaded the north end of the field, and held the soil in place on the steep embankment down to the stream. So they stayed. And they grew. And grew. Time passed around them. The water kept flowing through the stream. Children wandered beneath their spreading limbs. Some poor shlep dodged under the branches to get out of the rain he didn’t think would be there for another few hours. They saw young love and old love wander through their shade. And they watched the trees around them grow and die. Sometimes faster, sometimes slower than those who killed them. But we all die. Even the giants back there will die. Long after I’m gone from this place. What will they have seen by then? These Sentinels. The smartest trees in the woods. The pinnacle of their kind. Just living. And growing. And passing time.

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