I stood here before with exuded ebullience, and no one saw. Now, in obvious gloom, I am stared at by man and machine. I fondly remember this place, that warm day in November. The path here, then indistinct and mostly hidden, led to the edge of this meadow nearly ten acres in all. The wind was alive that day, ruffling my parka as it barreled unobstructed across the expansive plain, funneling down the path and dispersing wildly into the wood behind me. In the distance, a stand of birch lined the outer edges like soldiers on guard. I squinted as the high sun graced my cheeks. The rays cast across my shoulders before I even flinched. Fanatically called across by the wavering branches and limbs of the trees, I stood contemplating. The spectacle before me was nature’s finest, why should I leave? But new friends awaited my greeting, solaced by a man without an axe, but wielding a sketchbook and pencil. No ruse was their judgement, and I went.
Stepping into the meadow was likened a shoreline at high tide, cresting waves of soil created by the season’s last harrow. Naive was I to think it such a quick trip. The man-made wind rows nearly a foot tall made for slow-going. Not that it mattered, more time in the openness was on my mind. A straight line was the speediest way, but I found myself meandering in switchbacks through the billowy drifts; occasionally tripping on the protruding, sheared stalks of the last corn crop. Finally reaching the stand, the reverberation of the bristly branches stirred by the wind became chatter; I looked up and smiled. Their repose evident by the bright-white bark and plump catkins dancing wildly in the breeze. New friends indeed, and our mutual respect would surely last an eternity. I sat in their shadows and rested against their trunks the rest of that day, reveling in the quiescent around me, absent the ever-present, tangling wood above me.
I am taken back to gloom, and my fond memories being shelved. The new sounds deliver a minatory moan of destruction; the chattering of the birch no more. Dropped is the stand, stacked awry in the foreground assuredly to be hewn. My friends no doubt the victims of a clear-cut in advance of the barrage. The pinnacled soil flattened with ease by well-worn blades of the machinery, as if in the way. The virgin soil beneath pierced by oaken grade stakes. Her history of life-sustenance given no empathy — only the contrary. Tracked machinery pressing and cutting her as they callously crawl; digging and scraping their only quality amongst the endless provisions offered by earth and tree. I do nothing. The interminable awfulness too much for one man. I turn away and leave, never to return, bereft at the horror, and the loss of forever friends.
Keith B. Waterhouse
Keith is an Engineering Project Coordinator for a large public water utility in Connecticut and a volunteer writer for the Red Cross in the Connecticut/Rhode Island chapter. He enjoys hiking, camping, and enjoying nature anywhere from Maine to California with his wife and daughter.