About a mile from home is a beautiful horse farm, Fountain Green Farm, which stretches across Wake Road and is as beautifully landscaped as the finest ranches in western Kentucky. I’m not sure how many acres it is, several hundred at least. Beyond there had been beautiful woods surrounding a pond. The woods stretched for a few miles all the way from the same road around the corner clear through to Route 33/3, the main highway which runs from Deltaville to all points west (and north and south—this is the end of a peninsula, which etymologically speaking, means “almost an island,” so the road which runs past the woods is THE road which runs past the woods).
Hunters used the woods for a hunt club in deer season, and on any given morning or around twilight, deer and fox, raccoon and opossum in abundance hover at the edge of the road, eating grass or playing “scare the driver.” I’m not really sure what else lived in there. Snakes I suppose, but if you fly over the forested area you can see that the woods stretch pretty far to the west as well as from Wake Road to 33/3.
My point is, you can’t miss them.
A timber company came through and sold off the trees, cut them down, left limbs and stumps and branches and arbor-carnage strewn across acres and acres, cutting right through to the west and south, ending at the entrance road over on Route 33, carved out for logging trucks to haul out thousands and thousands of oaks and pine and maple and walnut trees. And more. The picture above doesn’t show the length and width of this destruction. Look at it now. All the way to the right it dips down along a ravine and back up across small rolling hills not seen in the photo. To the left and out of the picture to the top the cleared land covered in wooded waste stretches along the edge of Fountain Green Farm clear out through the once-forest.
We’ve had a lot more deer on the property lately. Now I understand.
I want to put up lawn signs on the once-woods which say, “This is why it has been so HOT out” or “Did you even once consider the flying squirrels?” (it’s true; the area is full of flying squirrels). But business, you know. The timber company which owns the land was doing what everyone knew they were going to do eventually.
The thing is, for me, they decided to do it now in the summer of 2020. Political mayhem is worse than ever, Covid-19 is killing hundreds of thousands of people without any sign of quieting down, Australia burned, Kobe died, George Floyd was murdered, protests followed, a massive African dust cloud covered the country, an East African locust swarm, a northwest swarm of murder bees, and the list goes on. It seems every aspect of life has been shredded, with unemployment out of control, morons gathering in groups postponing our ability to fight Coronavirus, homelessness increasing, hunger increasing, suicide increasing, hope teetering on the edge of lessness, and violence has apparently become the new default position for police.
I turn toward nature for balance, for escape, for some centering so I can better handle what is already nearly impossible to handle, and it brings me some peace, it allows perspective, reminding me that the rocks and trees, the river and north winds do not care who is in office, who is in distress. Nature is steadfast, promising nothing but somehow reliable for its billion-year-old consistency and objectivity.
And the woods around the corner were just a small fragment of that nature, barely noticeable, hardly thought about while driving by. Honestly, I was almost always looking the other way, toward the river, the bay, across the reach toward something just beyond my sight. But now behind me, just over the hill, I can sense a hole, an absence, like an absent limb, or the memory of someone I love who is no longer with us.
By the time the remaining too-small-to-be-sold trees reach the height of those carried off over the course of three weeks or so, my son will be older than I am now and I’ll be, well, harvested.
Still, even the rocks erode ever so much with each tide and rainfall, and shorelines recede and floods change the direction of rivers. The earth is not finished, and nature has always survived our short-sighted greed. The trees can be cut down, of course, but long after the last foreman’s great-great grandson is no longer alive, the trees will return, again and again. And again. They’ll grow old like Redwoods and wide like sequoias, and some lightning strike will cleanse the area again, on her own terms. Until some sapling starts to rise.
Humanity is impatient. Nature understands the value of persistence.
It is why I turn to nature, toward the fields at Fountain Green Farm where horses graze in the mist of the summer morning, and toward the paths which run through Belle Isle State Park on Virginia’s Northern Neck, up along the Rappahannock River, and along the back roads of Williamsburg, where Powhatan’s people grew crops and tried like hell to survive, only to be cut down by greed.
Humanity will not let things be. It just might be our most dangerous, self-inflicted act of callousness. We just won’t let things be.