July 27, 2004 ~ Paying Respects
It's been a while since I've taken you along with me on a hike.
these old boots...
It had rained off and on all day. The sky was overcast and misty, the light was flat and dull, turning my olive green pants a dusty grey, my skin a ghostly white.
dragonfly by the pond
I passed the pond where dragonflies flitted back and forth over the water, where rings formed from the occasional stray raindrop, and where bubbles rose from some creature hidden in the depths.
I started in on Jensen Trail.
Which follows a small creek:
I passed the Meditation Hut, which students built when I was a student here:
The little bridge and steep climb to the Meditation Garden is tempting:
But today I am not out to take detours. Today's hike is to pay my respects to a dead friend. I continue along Jensen Trail.
My hand against the trunk will give you a size reference--the trees along Jensen Trail are medium in size, fairly old to a human, but not so old for trees.
This trail follows along through the woods behind the art buildings. Students sometimes leave artistic contributions to the forest:
mud sculpture with mirrors and shells
raindrops still bead on the leaves
Jensen Trail eventually meets up with Christmas Tree Hill. The large trees are suddenly gone, instead a uniform forest of small, very young pine trees now lines the trail.
I'm not sure what happened, generally a very young pine forest like this means a clear cut, but I don't think that's accurate in this case. I think a fire burned the previous forest down, for I can see the stumps of older trees, blackened, and whomever owned the land at the time chose the cheap reforestation method of pines. (At least they reforested it at all).
one of many blackened stumps midst
the pines on Christmas Tree Hill
I encounter a few small finds along the way:
many shell spiders
splashes of bright pink flowers
and a frightened turtle
At the top of the hill, the pines stop, and the old forest behind Christmas Tree Hill starts. But a hundred feet in, suddenly, the trail stops literally in mid-air, leading right over the edge of a steep embankment of newly-gorged red clay. Beyond is what used to be an old forest. But now, there is this:
A new housing development of what they're calling "cottage mansions."
I remember the day that I came to visit the old woods behind Christmas Tree Hill--where I saw my first shell spiders and spent afternoons sitting beneath the ancient oaks--but, that day, instead of birdsong and wind, I heard chainsaws and trees crashing down. I came to the edge of the steadily growing clearing, and I remember how hot the tears felt, how the sweet smell of sawdust made me feel sick, how I suddenly found myself throwing sticks and screaming curses at the machines lumbering across what used to be an old forest, what used to be my friend.
Oh, hell yes I'm still angry.
I remember crouching next to the stump of a freshly cut oak and losing count of the rings after one-hundred and seventy-five. I remember brushing the sawdust off, but then holding it in my hand, eyes blurring as it sifted through my fingers.
This forest won't grow back, not even as evenly spaced pines. Instead it will be pavement, and manicured lawns, and cheaply built houses. Instead it will be run-off into the already pollution-choked Swannanoa River.
It's hard to tell just how vast it is, from these pictures. They cut into the hillside, terracing it, so it slopes down and away from the camera, out of sight. Many of the lower houses are already finished, ready to be bought.
And acres and acres of land are cleared and waiting for construction:
I turned away from the development, started across the field. Two wild rabbits watched my progress.
Wildflowers lined the trail down the back of the hill:
Queen Anne's lace
pokeweed berries forming
Then, past the farm, and home.