Walking along the creek path this morning, I am suddenly surrounded in gold. I pause for a moment in a grotto of vine maple leaves aglow in early morning sun. A few still cling to branches: others are patterned by rain to the forest floor. Gold is all around me. I am blessed in this moment by Beauty. A Navajo prayer drifts through my mind: “With Beauty before me I walk; with Beauty behind me I walk; with Beauty above me I walk; With Beauty all around me, I walk…” I feel so blessed to be in the healing Beauty of the forest–the sound of the creek’s voice, the glowing life that surrounds me. Still, I know this is but a moment before a new storm arrives turning the creek once more into a rushing torrent, stripping the last of the leaves from the trees, back to Earth.
I stand amidst the beauty trying to understand how it is that some do not see that the forest is alive–that it is not just a stand of trees. Yesterday, I received a reply from Oregon Department of Forestry to my letter concerning a 250 acre native diverse forest eco-system with trees that these days are considered “old growth” at above 100 years, some 125 years old, a forest that grows along the Nehalem river in Clatsop County.
First they tell me how valuable my insights are to their “overall management process.” Then they tell me that this area, The Homesteader Tract, “has been designated for a YOUNG AGE CLASS.” At first I am bewildered. Surely this is a mistake. Have they even walked in this forest? Maybe they have it confused with another forest. Younger than what? There is very little around that is older than this.
Then I realize that NO—what they are referring to is not the forest that exists now but their plans for the forest. Oregon Department of Forestry plans for this particular spot on their map to be clearcut, regrown as a tree farm, then clearcut again. What they don’t say outright is that they want to eliminate forests like this because the trees are too big and gnarly to be handled by the mills. Of course, they will “retain some of the older trees for wildlife function.”
These are the people who manage our “forests” for us. The person who wrote the reply is, of course, simply part of the bureaucracy, with no power to change policy. Nor is anyone you talk to—right up to the Board of Forestry who determines “the plan.”
I am reminded of a story that Vandana Shiva tells about a group of Indian village women who stood up to the men who came to log their forest. When the loggers arrived with their chainsaws, they found a group of women holding burning lanterns in mid day. Puzzled, they asked what was going on. “We are here to teach you forestry,” the women said,.“We are here to show you the light.”The men laughed, deriding them for such foolishness, and for not understanding the monetary value of the number of feet of timber to be cut. The women replied with this chant:
What do the forests bear?
Soil, water, and pure air.
Soil, water, and pure air.
Sustain the earth and all she bears.