Tuesday, September 18, 2012
A late afternoon walk in the woods
Each time we visit it seems this walk is never the same. I note different things about the birds, the understory, the fallen branches, what's green, what's not. Most walks with the dogs are moving meditations for me. I'm vaguely aware of where they are or aren't since I often can't see or hear them, but I seem to automatically pay attention to what's around me. Roots stick up from the ground that might trip me - a late blooming wildflower, windblows on the ground that might be new, new growth, old growth, mosses, and in fall new colour.
I've written about beech bark disease before.This woodlot is small and was probably originally a mixed hard and softwood bush. Most of the maple is small now, from three to four inches tall to perhaps fifteen feet. It's been logged and re-logged until all that's left is the reminder of what once was - huge rotting stumps covered in moss. Some of these are giant white pine, logged for poles, masts of ships and ribbing for them as well. Some are maple, long valued for furniture or building for its tensile strength.
The stumps make great photographs. Many paintings capture their marks of a Canadian pioneer history.
Beech? not so much. Most of this woodlot is now beech, young maple that will take years to grow to "cutting" width and height. There is also ironwood and some elm and ash - both of these latter species facing their own diseases and infestations as our world grows smaller.
And then I spot something most unusual:
A beech - a wolf tree - the kind that must have been on the edge of this bush in pioneer days when fields were being literally chopped out of the forest - huge spreading branches with a top that stretches high and uninjured to the sky. It appears healthy!
That lifted my heart. It may have some sort of genetic imperviousness to the disease, or not. But for now, for yesterday afternoon, it sorted of lifted my heart.
In past years there have been stumps that act as watering holes, crevices that hold rain for days, even weeks.
Not this year. A lot of the tiny trees have succumbed to the to the dry hot summer we've had and shed their leaves to wait until next year. Wild flowers, weeds, even many of the brambles haven't lasted.
When I return to the car wondering when the dogs will also return, I find them wandering along the edge of the road, tongues hanging out long and dripping, waiting for me! I laugh as I urge them to hurry across the road to the car and jump in. They are most reluctant - they're very hot and very tired. They've been running - perhaps after a creature or more likely from their search for water - all the streams are dry beds now, and perhaps the bucket that is usually outside my friend's home is empty. So after much encouragement to get them back into the car, I finally head for home, the dogs exhausted (the goal of the walk) and me feeling somehow uplifted by what I've seen this afternoon - the cycle of life told in the trees. Where there are endings, there are also beginnings. Not particularly profound, but a satisfying meditation for this day.