October 30, 2003 ~ Another Slap in the Face
Of all the foul words in the world, there is no curse that will express my displeasure with what I saw, smelled, heard, felt today.
As I came out of the pines, cresting Christmas Tree Hill, I knew that something wasn't quite right. It was the smell. It smelled familiar. Like my father's workshop. Ah, sawdust. Freshly cut wood. A lot of freshly cut wood.
"Not again..." I whispered to myself as I looked toward the old forest ahead. Sure enough, it was gone. Or, rather, in the process of becoming gone. I had thought that the machinery that I had heard on the way up was just from the Owen manufacturing plant a mile away. It wasn't. There were trucks and earthmovers and men with chainsaws moving all over the hillside, as far as I could see. A mile of stumps and soon-to-be stumps. I stood in the trees at the edge of the clearing, just staring, feeling chilled. So much for the old forest behind Christmas Tree Hill.
As a bulldozer lumbered up the hillside in my direction, I stepped into the branches of a felled red oak tree, hoping that the driver wouldn't see me. The leaves rasped next to my head. The bulldozer passed, and I made my way around the perimeter of the cut. The noise of the machines was a roar. I looked to the other side of the clearing, where the old fire pit used to be, the one where I had picked up and packed out someone else's liter and beer cans last year, next to the old pines (no longer standing) where I had inspected shell spiders for the first time years ago. The old oak that I had sat under was already gone.
Movement down at the base of the hill caught my attention, and my breath caught in my throat as a tall old pine fell, the pops and cracks as it's branches snapped off on the way down. Then the dull, reverberating thud as it hit the ground.
I didn't care if the men in the bulldozers saw me just then. A tightening in the throat, and, before I knew it, I was yelling, screaming. At first, it was just an anguished, inarticulate yell, loud, moaning, mournful. Then some choice impolite epithets hurled in the direction of the machines.
Which they ate, drowning my noise in their own. It didn't even make me feel any better. I swung at some tall grasses with a stick, scattering the seeds, wanting to break something. Preferably those machines. Or a few chainsaws.
Back up the hill away from where the main work was happening, I stepped out into the cut, stooping next to a large stump. Swiping the fresh sawdust away, I tried to count rings through the cut marks and splinters. That tree had been well over a hundred years old. I counted another and another and another. Several over a hundred years old, some possibly two hundred. I stood, staring, feeling slightly nauseous at the quantity of stumps that size.
So, another forest clear-cut, on the other side of campus. This cut is much, much bigger. And they're still cutting, so I'm not sure how far they plan to go. I said goodbye to the trees still standing, and cut back through the college-owned forest down to the Swannanoa River.
What's next? The woods along Cold Springs? Maybe another cut on Jones? The River Trail? WWC Trail? It's not even been a month yet since the Jones cut. Two in one month. This does not bode well. If I have to watch the forests I know and love die one by one, the trails that I hike every day be destroyed mile by mile, I'm going to snap. I can only take so much.
I learned my lesson last time. I'm not going to let this one drown me. I'm just angry. More salt in my wounds, more fuel on a roaring fire. Morgan said a funny thing, "Well, there's nothing you can do about it, and it's not as if you needed any more conviction."
Aye. Tell the Universe that. I don't recall offering the other cheek to get slapped.