Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Reaching for light

If you love the Old Forest, you must bookmark this blog: A Year in the Woods. It features the photography of Jenn Allmon and the writing of Steve Black. Here's an excerpt from their latest entry:

I am wondering about the names of trees. Latin and Common. When I was a child walking in the woods, there were only trees. Skinny trees. Fat trees. Tall trees. Young trees. The word tree sufficed, can still suffice. Once I was walking through the woods with a friend – we were maybe eight or nine years old. He and I would spend long afternoons in the woods, climbing gully banks and following animal trails. For some reason, on this day my friend was carrying a hatchet, swinging it beside his leg as we were walking, and at some point in our walk he stopped beside a sapling and began hacking it down. I grabbed his arm and made him stop, and the outrage and anger that drove me to make him stop baffled me even then and baffles me now.
Why would an eight year old boy care more about saving a sapling than relishing a chance to chop a tree – however small – down? I still don’t understand it. It seems to me I should have been eager to seize the hatchet and chop down the nearest vulnerably thin tree once he was finished. I didn’t know what kind of tree he was killing, and that kind of knowledge was irrelevant anyway. What mattered was that once destroyed, that tree would be forever destroyed. And lacking the power to create or renew life, it seemed an offense to kill or mangle a living thing.