As I think about writing a life summary, there’s a crew cutting down the Norway Maples across the street in Fairmount Park. This is a good thing because these invasive trees very quickly crowd out the native species and in the process choke off the food supply on which our native bugs and birds and mammals depend. Left to itself, our forest would be replaced in fifty years or so by a sterile tree plantation. The tree service contractors won’t get them all-even I can see three big ones that they missed. These survivors will drop seed and outgrow and sun-starve the natives around them and in a few years all the good work will be undone. It would be sweet to think about permanent solutions to the problem of the dying forest and here’s the way I think about it now:
norway maple in fairmount park
it's mostly the muscles that want to swing the axe that whacks at the base of the forest-killing weed tree. as much as you think you know about the death of the woods and the invading foreigners starving out the birds and bugs and butterflies, it's really the sound as it echoes off your bark and the hard deceleration of the axe as you feel it leaf through the wood of your arms and into your trunk and the tickle of the trickle of sweat along your ribs as you make the first warm day of spring.
the day after you salted the stumps and planted the little oaks and beeches and wild blueberry, they sent a crew out into the neighborwoods and asked each household: "Did you hear those norway maples fall? Did you see the sun again on the forest floor?" And when it turned out that no one did, you went back to the woods and there-the norway maples unchopped and arrogant, not caring about your axe or the pathetic fallacy, sneering at the doomed little oaks, knowing quite well that no one was listening and they, therefore, were quite safe.
later, later when the woods had died and the last fox tripped starving through the plantation that we let in place where the woods would wood, you had to wonder: is swinging the axe and a tired back all that ever mattered? are the sweat and the sound the only wages of the day? and if they are- where do you go and who do you thank for that?
Part of me roots for the forest, another part is happy just that they’re doing the work. So how shall I make my own life summary? Is it a list of forests saved or a list of days spent happily chopping?