I knew those boys were up to no good thing when they put a great steel gate up across the old logging road. But I didn’t know what surprise their new “Private Property No Trespassing” sign held rigid within it. I suppose I knew the nature of the surprise, since I knew the general nature of the boys. They had been capitalizing on their inheritance for years, yet I didn’t think they’d decimate it.
When I was a child I used to walk through the strip of woods between our house and the old logging road. Contrary to what it looked like—a couple of dirt and stone tracks on either side of a tall line of grass—it was an adventure highway cutting through a forest kingdom that was either friendly or fierce depending on the way the light and clouds behaved.
Leave the road down long-sloping banks through woods and find coveys of trees with pine needle beds and a little brook with holes deep enough to cool off in and mint leaves on its banks to chew on.
Stay on the road and come upon a small shack of a building no longer in use, where shadows and noises are ghosts perturbed by human presence. And inside was stuff people used to use and the feeling they’ll return any moment to catch you touching it.
When I grew up, I ran on that road in the mornings, and over the years it went from dirt tracks to a wide, graded road with great rusty culverts the boys salvaged from somewhere. Then a few driveways began to sprout off it up to thankfully lovely and mostly inconspicuous houses.
After they put up the steel gate that blocked the road to the shack, I took the dog with me on a run down there maybe a few times, until I saw indications the boys were working a small-time operation of splitting logs.
Nothing much happened after that. But then I don’t always go as far as the crossroad. So this year when I did, not only was the gate gone, so were the all the trees big enough to bother cutting down.
My brain swam in a mix of loss and disorder with nothing to hold onto until it manufactured something tears could spring from, and I walked away with them clouding the road back to the house.
Anger brought me back with a camera. And later on, I got another angle of the damage when we drove to the dump, and the guy there said, “Say, what do you think about what those boys have done?” and he pointed back toward the mountain above our house and the extent of it, the great white swatch of an absent wood.
Way out in the country, damage is experienced more on a blank canvas as opposed to heavily populated cities full of manmade structures. And because of that, it speaks more starkly to humankind’s beginnings, its very existence, and the land that grows what’s needed to subsist on.
Now at the crossroad that leads down to the shack there’s a less assuming “Private Property No Trespassing” sign. And now there’s only to look at it, a plastic sign mounted to a post made from a tree on acres of land now stripped of trees, and its meaning is clear.
Green note: This winter’s pilgrimage back to the place of my wild and tortured youth brought a shock followed by a deep sadness. Same as the first Plight of the Trees, there was damage marked by the passing of the old year, but this time it was not Mother Nature’s fault.
Click here for more on prompt “SS2 #52 – the old year passes” from other Sunday Scribblings participants.