I have a diverse number of friends. Some, are rabid activists. Ready to protest paper cups, plastic cups, or cups in general. Others, tell inappropriate and maybe racist jokes now. No one knows any good “priest a rabbi and a minister” jokes anymore. Today, people are very divided. Some people I know are from one camp, others from another. Some from specific countries and others from other areas of the globe. Some have these leanings and romantic involvements; others keep by different trends and infatuations. In order to get along with everyone, I have to keep to myself anything that may interfere with a healthy social life. I often drink as much as possible to come to common ground and stop feeling so socially awkward. As long as you are not hurting yourself, hurting others, or harming me, live and let live, right?
Consider the trees. The many species out there. In the past few many years I have drawn life, I have seen so many of the forest succumb for what may be so many reasons. Some were lost to the land cleared for houses. People changed from cutting the trees down and then using the wood for to heat their homes to just pushing the trees away into some pile that was either pushed over the edge of a hill or set on fire where it stood. Some trees I imagine were cut down to make toilet paper. To think my bottom has come into contact with old growth oaks, rain forest, and lots of Canadian taigas. In the past few years and decades, so many have surrendered to some sort of pestilence from foreign shores.
Of my friends, I am perhaps the only one I know who knows supporters of Mr. Trump. These people are elated he is elected. I know those who belong to Clinton, Stein, Johnson, and of course Sanders camps. I may also know those who are excited or angry for a number of people for a number of reasons. I cannot have everyone I know in the same room at the same time. This is diversity.
There are the European, Asian, and South American vermin, or new condition not seen on the shores of North America, that today stands and closes of trees fall ill from. Individual trees formerly of girth and having stood for ages, since the start of this nation or before, now wild trunks harboring the woodpecker, the termite and dead as dust. In the past hundred years or so over 400 new bugs and diseases that we know of have made their way as immigrants to our hallowed land. Where are the Elms, the American Chestnut other than on old street names?
When I was a child, my siblings and I would ramble all about knowing that we kids could not be charged with any crime (I am not sure this was true, but children believe so many things that are patently untrue). We learned to hide. In a moment, any of us could melt into the woods. We walked together but not in fear. Unless we heard the approach of some adult. And adults make so much noise in the woods it is unbelievable.
I was young, when I first walked in the woods alone. It was a frightening affair. The way I today feel when swimming in the deep ocean is how I then felt when walking in the woods alone. I did not know what was in the woods then and had all manner of fears. Typically, I would get up very early in the morning, just about daybreak. Because we lived close to the river, the morning fog was usually thick and gave cover for the few backyards I may have to cross, depending on my route into the woods. It seemed I wandered so far, but in truth, it was just a few miles if that.
In time, I learned to walk alone, startling only when the deer or rabbit would jump away. In time, I learned to walk quietly, and to get the jump on so many animals. On one occasion, I played with fawns who must have thought I a deer before their parent came and took fright and ruined the game, as many parents to for their playful children. Nightfall was yet another story. I feared the night. Coming home from some ramble and being caught by time, the summer sun vanishing, I pushed hard through brambles and bushes, creeping across some orchard, and then creeping past the backyards, the yard lights and porch lamps that could catch me at any moment, a comfort. I did not want to be out there at night. I must admit, it was not until well into adulthood that I would be able to walk in the woods alone, in the dark, at night, and not be full of fear. And as swimming in the ocean today, I still have a tinge of fear. I am proud of pushing through my fear and walking into the night, but still know that deep down, I am a coward and afraid of the dark.
The forests are studded with the corpses of so many trees. I don’t know what the latest bug was, but old trunks now stand along the road and property owners, and departments of public works will have to work to remove them before they all fall on the road. Then, there are those in the woods left alone. They will provide some habitat for others I assume, nature wastes nothing even if we don’t like the way She wastes not. They say that the forest always recovers, that nature finds a way, but the forest that returns is not the one of your youth. It is different. A changed landscape. While you may remain, those things you knew are forever gone. A rough translation of the old Irish curse,
Is féidir leat cónaí níos faide ná do chlann clainne. How is it I have outlived trees and forests in my lifetime that first started growing under the rarified air that the Saint breathed all those millennia ago?
Many of my friends are in fear of so much today. So much change. Some say we are going back, but like the forest, we cannot return to those great ancient woods. New plants arrive, and grow, whether they bring forth thorns or burdock or verdant temples and grand boughs. Many of my friends and acquaintances are hopeful, for the first time in a long time. They hope to see a change they never thought they would live to see. We are uncertain as to this next season. We march into the forest that is beautiful and strange. For some, it is the first of many days. For others, it is the long and frightening night. Either way, those insects and others out there munch away at the forests indifferently, as some infinitely small dark and elder god.