Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Nature's Long Memory

Me in front of a very old beech tree
I take comfort in knowing—trusting—that the forest surrounding our house will outlive me. There is an old beech tree in the hollow that is about 300 years old, and I wonder what changes the tree has seen in the hollow. I have no doubt that parts of the woods have been cut down, used as pasture for a generation or so, and then grew back into forest again when left alone. I remember that the creek into which our hollow drains is called Buffalo Creek, and I wonder how this came to be. How many winters has this forest endured? And, of course, there are rocks in the hollow that are exponentially older. The rocks have seen countless seasons and trees come and go. Indeed, the rocks have witnessed—and even felt—the sculpting of the ancient hollow itself.

My time here is only temporary. Planning ahead the proverbial seven generations would only be a start, and it is good for me to remember this. Whether I recognize it or not, I am more visitor and caretaker than owner.

"Whether we and our politicians know it or not, Nature is party to all our deals and decisions, and she has more votes, a longer memory, and a sterner sense of justice than we do." — Wendell Berry (written as a part of his endorsement of The Dying of the Trees: The Pandemic in America's Forests, by Charles E. Little, Penguin, 1995)
Ancient White Cedar in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area of Minnesota
(This tree is estimated to be 1200 years old)

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