Reflection 310: Wildness 10

August 24, 2012

Copyright © 2012 by Steve Perrin.    [With eleven photos.]

Fallen trees are the bane of any forester because they are “wasted” wood. But in a forever-wild preserve, they are just one more stage in the life of a tree. Their job now is not to add new growth or host populations of insects and birds but to build soil. Every generation of forest trees thrives on the remains of those who have gone before.

To observe the transformation of solid wood into fertile soil is a lesson in recycling and regeneration. Not only for trees but for forests complete with microorganisms, worms, insects, reptiles, birds, and wildlife in general. For what I call wildness as the characteristic state of terrestrial life.

I am fortunate in having access to a forever-wild preserve, where I have taken the following pictures, starting with an old birch with one last limb still connected to moisture in the soil, still supporting photosynthesis in its dwindling quota of leaves. Then illustrating stages of decay until old stems become one with the Earth from which they sprouted roughly a century ago. Fallen trees are as much an integral part of a forest as standing trees are for they are the future. Where do seedlings take root but in the duff on the forest floor made from fallen needles, leaves, and remains of ancient trees?

P1010680 96-FTrees-1P1010615 96-FTrees-2P1010703 96-FTrees-3P1010656 96-FTrees-4 P1010945 96-FTrees-5 P1010627 96-FTrees-6P1010663 96-FTrees-7P1010944 96-FTrees-8P1010959 96-FTrees-9P1010633 96-FTrees-10P1010970 96-FTrees-11

Not neat, groomed, and pretty perhaps, but a forest doing its own work in adding new substance to old soils, not the work of mankind in cutting that substance off the land. While taking these pictures, I was accompanied by birds darting through the woods, insects, mushrooms rising from damp soil, shrews scuttling in every direction—all beneficiaries of forests that lived long before their time. Today is not made of brand-new stuff, but is built from the recycled detritus of yesterday. That is the secret of wildness:  How to turn what was into what is, what is into what is to be.

Documenting such progressions is one of the joyful engagements of my later life. Why else am I here if not to bear witness to what a long series of life situations has taught me in such brushes with wildness as these? Our home planet is doing its work all around us; our job is not to remake the Earth to our specifications, but to fit ourselves into a program that has built the world we are born to from scratch over the past 4.5 billion years. That is, to reassert and celebrate the wildness of our own minds, which we can begin by respecting the wilds around us.

Sweet woodland dreams. I remain y’r friend, –Steve from Planet Earth.

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