I destroyed a forest today. Well, a small patch of potential future forest. I ripped the tiny trees out of the ground with my bare hands. It is a battle with the ever-encroaching woods for possession of our property. Some would call it weeding.
I feel incredibly guilty, as if I myself am responsible for all of man’s destruction of the planet. Who am I to decide the fate of these trees? Is my house more important? I think of old cabins left abandoned. Man turns his back and nature reclaims her own; sending tree roots to crack the foundation, vines to expand the crevices between the planks, and bugs to feast on the wood.
Despite my misgivings, I uproot the miniature pines. On my hands and knees, I marvel at the miniscule. Underneath the five-inch red and white pine trees are even smaller oaks and maples. I find several types of minute mushrooms. One variety is tall and slender; a pale runway model with a skull cap tight to her head. A second is thick and squat, with a wide-brimmed hat instead of a cap. Yet a third is just an ever-so-tiny button – nothing but cap – seeming to float on the green below. The green is an emerald-colored velvety moss, and another in a darker shade that is reminiscent of feathery underwater seaweed. Underneath it all are decayed leaves turned to dirt.
I am reminded of the cycle of the northwoods forest. The forest begins with birch trees. The birch give way to pines, which in turn are overtaken by the hardwoods – oaks and maples. The cycle is not rushed. From pinecone or acorn to a strong, tall, imposing tree requires decades, even centuries. And yet, in my lifetime, I have seen these woods complete much of this cycle. I remember vast stands of birch; white trunks and silvery leaves creating a magical effect. Now these areas are mainly filled with pines, and the forest is dark and ominous. But the oaks and maples are growing tall under the pines, and autumn brings a burst of color like light cutting through a prism.
I may have won today’s battle against the trees, but ultimately nature, with her patient persistence, will reign victorious.