August 15, 2015
My walk yesterday came to two miles, but I didn’t go the usual route. This time I went up the hill and down to the cove where duck blind 13 is. The challenge of the big hill, as well as the fact that I hadn’t seen my favorite local nature trail drew me on in the late August morning, though it was already warm. The smell of the lake air, with just a hint at autumn, and the sage-like late summer forbs and grasses lulled me into my happy place. I wasn’t able to stay in that contentment long.
When I got to the little concrete pad hear the blind, I sat on it and cried. The city has decided it might be nice to clean the area up to open it for tent camping again. It sounds like a great idea, until you think about what their idea of cleaning up is. They went in with brush-hogs or bulldozers or both and cut away much of the undergrowth. Necessary? I don’t know, maybe. The sad part is that they have destroyed so much that made the place magical for me and others looking to experience actual nature.
There is a difference between being outdoors in a controlled environment and being surrounded by the untamed. Many people prefer their nature in small doses, and somewhat safer than actual wilderness. I am not one of those. Right now, being as out of shape as I am, I probably need it, but it isn’t what I’d choose. Please don’t mow over the poison ivy for me. Even it has its place in nature’s web. The thought of all of those wild, native plants and animals being mowed over and/or bulldozed brought back every horrific scene out of Bambi, Fern Gully, Medicine Man, and others. The messages that these movies give us are all too clear, and yet we refuse to hear. More exactly, we hear and see, but refuse to feel. Even now, thinking about it, I am saddened to tears.
As I sat there sobbing on that concrete slab, surrounded be the broken shapes of plants I had come to love, I caught sight of a hickory whip—or rather what remained of it after the brush-hog severed it about six or eight inches above the ground, and realized that it had a sprout of new growth coming out the left side of the trunk. The young branch was nearly as long as the small trunk was tall, and would likely outgrow it before going dormant this fall. The sapling wasn’t dead. It had been through a harrowing experience, and was damaged badly, but that damage wasn’t the end of the little tree.
Slowly, a feeling like opening came over me, and I began to hear the cicadas and grasshoppers, frogs, woodpeckers. The sounds of the woods grew louder and more varied as I sat listening. The places where the trees now allowed sunlight through were growing plants I would have missed if they hadn’t been exposed. Some might have been outcompeted by taller or more vigorous grasses. A skink clattered through some leaf litter nearby. My beloved woods weren’t dead, they’d just changed.
Though still saddened by the trauma my favorite spot had endured, I came to realize that it will take a lot more than that to destroy these woods. My own trauma was as useless here as it was in town. Life finds a way. It is said that nature abhors a vacuum, and perhaps it is true, because what started as a tragedy ended as an inspiration. Perhaps it is the purpose of tragedy to create inspiration. People always wonder why tragic things happen, sometimes to the least deserving, and perhaps it is that tragedy serves best to mark out the beauty of tenacity, bravery and love.