Monday, September 20, 2004

You know, in spite of my beloved country being in the hands of crazy people, I feel pretty good. Every day, you have to leave some things undone, and I managed to get quite a few things left until next time. Yesterday, I left about half of next winter's wood waiting stacked up beside the clearing we just made on the mountainside. Sometime in the next twelve months I have to finish cutting it up to stove length, split it, and bring it down to the house. I'm ready for this winter, though, if we have one. In today's global climate disruption, one never knows about such things. The old signs and sayings don't work nowadays, so even though we had all the seed washed off the field by hurricane Ivan, we can still replant this fall, and the date gets later and later in the year. My neighbor, who gave up the banking business to run a bulldozer, says he can't butcher his hogs on Thanksgiving any more; too hot! We just carry on and feel good at the end of the day washing off the dirt from the day's labors, and putting ice on the various body parts that hurt. A glass of wine is an excellent ice pack for the mind. My neighbor the bulldozer driver says he's got pokeberry wine working, and it's real good for the arthritis. When I ask him if he's worried about the toxic effects he said there'd be a lot more dead birds lying around if that were so. It's better not to think too hard at such times, and just let the ice pasks work their magic.

It seems like every one has some personal experience with climate change and what is known in scientific circles as "The End of Nature". It's mostly all about us from now on. Mother Nature is on the run, fer sure. We'll take the hogs to someplace with a butchering cooler and keep eating bacon as long as it lasts.

Humans have no limits when it comes to how badly they can mess things up. They would have no limits in what they could fix if they would only give it a shot. I kayaked the stream in my yard twice on Saturday with my wife and kids. All the way along the banks I kept being drawn to the Hemlock trees. They will most likely be gone before my children can show them to their children in spite of heroic efforts by scientists and environmentalists. Greedy plant nursery operators brought young trees infected with a devastating insect pest, in from a foreign country. In doing this thing they have written the death warrant for the most perfect of trees lining our streams...A tree that looks for all the world like a child's vision of a Christmas tree. I would heed the words of Jesus who is quoted as saying, Forgive them...they know not what they do!", except that they do know, so I don't forgive them!

The Eastern United States was home to a most beautiful deciduous tree that dominated the Smoky mountains, providing superior lumber and food. It is the American Chestnut. It has been destroyed by a fungus brought in by greedy plant nurserymen. I have made things, jewelry boxes and cabins, from chestnut wood that had been buried for decades below the sediment on creek banks. The logs that my wood came from were excavated when someone wanted to build a pond, having washed down and been covered up when billions of the trees died and left the soil defenseless to erosion in fthe face of winter's rain. If you are ever in Mountain City Georgia, I think you might enjoy a tour of the Hambidge Center. I was the handyman there a long time ago. It is an Artist's retreat that has several old chestnut buildings. The warmth of the wood is undescribable, as you walk through a weaving workshop. There is no finish on the wood walls, but they look like some rich man just paid exorbitantly to acheive that perfect look for his study. When I was working here, they raised sheep of different colors and searched for higher consciousness through weaving. A bunch of women ran the place and I needed the paycheck. One of the hardest thing I ever did was to stand by and watch a woman who said she was an interior decorator paint a chestnut wall orange. I have not forgiven her, either.

So we lost the Chestnut and now we will lose the American Hemlock. It will greivously change the ecosystem of my creek and its tributaries. I cannot fathom how much, but the forest surface below a hemlock grove will be loss enough to grieve. These places draw me in and hold me. Rooms in the forest that make me thinks of mythological creatures sitting together and talking about mystical things. I once sat under an large Hemlock in an elven bower and watched the world grow dark at day's end. A screech owl studied me, sure that I was not supposed to be there and quite in the way of his crepuscular hunt. I made tiny scratching noises in the leaves with one finger to keep him around. He circled me, hopping from shrub to shrub until he decided there was nothing for supper anywhere close to this big oaf who had taken over the hunting grounds. I would have given much to have had night vision at that point in time. To see the owl's eyes grow alert and focus his ears on my curious noise. We will say goodbye to these fairy land experiences sometime in the next thirty years if things go as we fear. Our future ghosts will only live in urban settings. Grendel and Leprichans amidst the dumpsters.

But I lay awake last night thinking it was a good day anyhow. Tired and achy, getting older, wondering how much these old war wounds are going to hurt when I really do get old? I hit the double nickel in two and a half weeks. I shoulda taken better care of my parts... they complain too much, nowadays. There's lots to do tomorrow, so shut up and leave me alone for a little sleep. I want to have an owl dream of what could be.



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