While I grew up in Seattle, my most important growth was in the woods. The most valuable lessons of my life were learned among the trees surrounding my grandparents’ lake cabin in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains. The tendrils of my heart are as intertwined with the forest, as the trees, ferns, moss and mushrooms found there are with each other.
One of the things that drew me to this property of ours was the beautiful woods. Tall mature fir trees, graceful cedars, swordferns, berries, moss, even the rich and complex fragrance, all drew me like a magnet. Ahhhhhh…. my soul breathed happily, this is home.
During the design phase of our new house, decisions were made on the placement of well, home, and workshop. I knew that trees would have to be cleared to make room, and to prepare a safety buffer from trees that might fall in future windstorms. Such clearing, while painful to this woman who grieves the loss of any tree, must be done. Because we dug deep financially to buy this pretty place, we also chose to do extra logging, hoping the harvest money would help defray clearing expenses. I was never comfortable with this plan, and as the day grew closer, my uneasiness grew.
As logging began and trees began to fall, booming to the earth, I tried with little success to keep my spirits up. But with each passing day, the horror that I felt grew. I tried to avoid looking out the windows to the sadness that lay beyond; I fled our property as frequently as an excuse could be mustered. My grief knew no bounds. My poor husband struggled to make sense of the impact this was having on me, I struggled to help him understand. And then one night I had a dream.
I was in the woods……. The forest, lit softly by the moon above, was quietly moaning and sighing. On a night without a breeze, the trees swayed gently back and forth as if to comfort one another. I stood in their midst with tears rolling down my cheeks, feeling their sadness and dismay. I awoke to find my pillow drenched in tears. Without a doubt, my soul was in the forest that night, and the dream haunts me still.
I shared the dream with my husband, and quietly pleaded, “No more…. please, no more.” He called our logger and the decision was made to end the harvest.
After the logging had stopped, the trucks had left, and the dust had settled…I walked across the clearing on a trail that once was, to the forest remaining. I stood in a small glade and asked the trees to forgive us. I told them I knew we had broken the rule, take only what you need, and I wished to make amends. The promise was made to plant young trees in the spring and to tend those babies well. Knowing the loss of their comrades had weakened those remaining, I asked the trees to stand firm against the coming winds of winter. They did their best. In the November storm, when the winds switched and came in from the north, 15 more giants fell to earth. Their bones now lie waiting to be taken away.
February and March found me kneeling in the cold mist helping my husband plant young trees and shrubs ordered from our local conservation district. As each transplant settles in and puts forth tender new growth, I feel better. We’ve a long way to go, but there is joy in the beginning.
In the woods, where the lost ones once cast their shadows, sunlight now reaches the forest floor; young trees stretch to fill the void and seeds long asleep are teased awake. Tiny seedlings sprouting in my cottage garden, will be nurtured and moved this autumn back to the woods.
When given a chance, Nature finds a way; and when we work with her, our good efforts are rewarded. I’m doing my best, I truly am. When I walk into the woods now, I feel our Mother’s blessing rather than her sadness. I’ve been forgiven, but I know my work will never be done.
(Join the movement to re-green the Earth. Plant native species of trees, shrubs and flowers where you can and protect those we have. Donate time or even your spare change to one of the many organizations working to replant forests both at home and abroad, and be mindful of your consumption of tree products or of products grown where forests should be. It is good and valuable work. Thank you.)