Saturday, January 13, 2007

Death Knell of the Ancients

Another tree falls, and the taiga mourns with groaning—not the sound of groaning, but the deep and silent rumble of the soul whose tremors make tremble even the deepest parts of the earth. For the thud of one more tree against the pock-marked ground is the fearsome, chaotic clanging of one more thick, cold iron bell, another alarum ringing out the imminent fate of all life that once found its haven here.

For these trees have never seen war, never been brushed by plague or pandemic. Peaceful existence, nurturing coexistence has reigned here for centuries as the trees, fir and spruce, elm and oak alike, have offered their raised limbs to the native grouse for nesting, and to the visiting thrushes who stay only until the first gray of winter touches the sky and sends these fair-weather birds to a more tropical locale for the cooler season. These trees have been proud to wear, year after year, the pure and powdery snow from which raptors flee and grizzlies hide themselves, fat with nourishment to last them for months as they sleep in their deep dens until ground thaw.

These old-growth trees have seen light and shadow, each wonderful and terrible in its very special way. Nothing is as jarring as a full neon sun throwing itself against a tinny, white wilderness; nothing is as spectacular as colored hues that glow and dance across the backdrop of space every vernal and autumnal equinox. The forest has seen it all. It has also seen the nightfall, accompanied by the paralyzing beating of owls’ wings and the death squeals of the small rodents, fallen prey to the hunters of the night. The trees have played the part of protector against harsh daylight, weaving their stretching limbs together as a barrier so that the mosses and lichen could thrive gratefully along the shaded ground beneath.

The forest remembers stories of the first appearance of man, coming in on foot from the west, building their settlements nearby, hunting the animals, treading lightly on the land. Even the last of the trees who had known these respectful men, had lived in harmony with them, have long since fallen and returned to the earth, adding their matter back to the soil to the propagation of forest life. But the legacy of these gentle hunters remains, giving strength to the trees and the delicate fibers of life in this harsh, beautiful wilderness.

Nothing like that legacy are these newly arrived men, who come in droves with their clamorous machines to cripple the forest, their hearses to drag the victims away to the nearby paper mill. They upset the balance and the peace of the long-time dwellers here, giving it no thought as they ravage and scar the land. Another tree falls, its once proud limbs crunching against the snow-packed ground. An alarm sounds to the raptors that had nested in those branches, to the fox and the squirrel whose once secret dwellings are now hopelessly destroyed. And a chill pulses through the forest—a chill that the cold, damp summers and thoroughly severe winters have, in thousands of years, never managed to elicit from the proud and brawny trees. For the trees know they can survive the wind and snow and the days upon days of darkness, a barren climate which has caused virtually all other life to shrink away. But against the calloused greed within the hearts of short-sighted man even the stout-willed trees cannot fight. And in each buzz of a saw, each turning of an engine, each loud and brazen guffaw of a hardened, senseless clearcutter preparing to wrap up another day of hard work, the forest can hear the heralding of its own bleak doom. And so it remains, in jarring silence.

1 comment:

Jackie said...

Wonderful post but so sad. My neighbours were complaining the trees around us were cutting out the light so they chopped half their branches off , it had me in tears. You could almost feel their pain as if they had limbs chopped off.