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.”
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.