noticing

There’s a rectangular patch of woods a little ways down the road from our house. It’s not big, maybe 15 acres or so, but because it’s edged by two roads that I frequently run, I notice it a lot. Deer lurk in the shadows, and squirrels rustle in the leaves so aggressively — they sound more like large mammals than harmless, furry-tailed rodents — that I get heart palpitations. 

Christmas Day 2019: the forest at my back

Anyway. Over the last week or two, they’ve been logging that forest. In the early morning, we hear the chainsaws start up and then all day long, the screaming crashes and thunder-booms as one massive tree after another hits the ground. I keep checking the tree line. Did we used to be able to see the mountain ridge through the trees, or is that new? How much wood are they taking? Do they plan to leveling the entire forest, or are they clearing just a small area? 

“How many trees are they going to cut?” my younger son says to no one in particular. 

This morning when I ran by in the icy drizzle, chainsaws were already roaring and a small crane was loading trees onto a truck. I thought about stopping and asking about their plans, but then I didn’t.

The steady thud of falling trees gives me a bit of a cosmic doomsday vibe: the world’s heating up, the trees are disappearing, crash-boom.

“It seems wrong,” I said to my husband the other night. “They’re destroying a forest.” 

“Where do you think the wood that I build with comes from?” he asked.

He has a point, I suppose. Perhaps it’s fitting that we — a family who lives on a builder’s income — hear the trees fall. If we all lived right next to the garbage dumps and slaughter houses and the water treatment plants — the unsightly inner workings that fuel our daily lifestyle choices — we might be less inclined to take things for granted, more thoughtful about the choices we make.

November 2021: in my parents’ woods

The first time our Puerto Rican friends joined our family at my parents’ for a wood-cutting party, they were taken aback. “You’re allowed to do this?” they asked, incredulous, gesturing at the downed trees, the piles of firewood, the axes and chainsaws.

“Yes, it’s their land,” we said. “But not only are we allowed to take out firewood, removing the dead trees and clearing certain areas allows for new growth that actually makes the forest stronger.”

right now

Maybe the guys down the road are just cleaning up the woods? You know, thinning out some of the trees. Tidying up a bit. 

It seems unlikely, but I can still hope.

This same time, years previous: baked pasta with harissa bolognese, the quotidian (2.24.20), homemade pasta, steer sitting, the quotidian (2.24.14), birds and bugs, bandwagons, cream scones.

8 Comments

  • Bobbi

    If they are simply logging for the lumber they will re-plant. Very common here in SW VA to see logging happening, as we live close to one of the Georgia Pacific plants (paper products). And in a few months after clearing you notice cute little eastern white pines shooting up, up, up. And landowners make some money off of it, and we all get toilet paper and pencils and 2x4s to build our raised garden beds ‍♀️ It’s all good, in my opinion.

  • katie

    We’d be really lucky if that was the wood that we got to build with. Often those hardwoods get sent to get kiln dried, then shipped off to the other side of the world to get turned into shtuff that gets shipped back for us to purchase again. These hardwoods also don’t usually get replanted like those pine plantations, rather it seems they leave some seed trees and let them grow back before harvesting again in 30 years or so. If I were you’d I’d pull up the state property map and see who owns that parcel, out of curiosity. It’s small to be owned by a lumber company but you never know. Unfortunately cutting out all that dead wood also removes a part of the forest’s life span (I do it too, but I do feel bad about it.) and keeps it from ever really fully maturing. You know, old growth forest? Where approximately a quarter of the standing trees are dead/dying and falling and leaving those holes in the canopy where young trees get started? It’s interesting in these parts, talking about noticing, to look harder at those sorts of plots of forest. How big are the biggest trees? How many are dead/dying? How much age variation do you see? all one age trees could indicate that this forest was logged just like this some number of years ago and that gives me heart that it’ll grow back again. That’s why wood is considered renewable. Or maybe they’re mostly same-aged but with some big spreading monster trees interspersed? Then it was maybe a farm field that someone stopped farming that number of years ago. I love to try to read the stories these bits of forests have to tell from clues that are right in front of our eyes. Finally, yes, I am totally with you on how large squirrels sound when you are running by! Makes me think about how they can afford to be loud because they can just run straight up that tree and hide in a hole, versus, say, a deer. We humans of course, can afford to be loud too.

  • Thrift at Home

    I hate hate hate to see/hear trees being cut down. It’s a little illogical because I do use wood products but I have been reading tree books in the last few years and I can’t bear to see them cut down.

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