Wednesday, November 10, 2010

November 10: Forest

The devastation caused by a recent rain and wind storm became more apparent to me today when I was walking a conservation property in Lincolnville. As the landowner and I walked through one dense patch of mixed cedar and spruce forest, we came upon an ancient pine that had splintered about four feet up the trunk and toppled to the ground. This towering tree, with no apparent rot, boughs still green, had come crashing down in the storm, taking several neighboring cedars with it. We estimated the pine to be well over 100 years old. And there it lay in a giant tangle, felled by the wind.

Elsewhere in the forest we found maybe half a dozen other trees downed by the storm. Some were spruces,  their shallow root systems made all the more obvious when upended, just a flat circle of earth perpendicular to the forest floor. In the small stands of trees, the crowded trunks provide support for one another. But when one falls, it takes others down with it, a row of giant timber dominoes. Or if one happens to fall alone, it leaves the trees within the circle more vulnerable to the next big storm.

In an opening amid the trees, growing from a forest floor carpeted thick with rain-moist moss, we admired clusters of baby spruce trees, the next generation. It occurred to us that we were witnessing the entire cycle of life in this patch of woods: new trees reaching for the light, mature trees clustered around them, some dead trees still standing, fretted with woodpecker holes and studded with bracket fungi, the newly fallen trees piled in messy heaps, and the older deadfall melting back into the earth from which it came, blanketed with moss, ferns, mushrooms, forest duff, leaf litter. A rich tapestry of organic matter, the stuff of life and death.

Wind's toy, this old pine,
whose death enriches the soil,
this moss, these seedlings.

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