Wednesday, February 01, 2012

The forest is quiet, as quiet, I think, as if the trees were blanketed in snow. I took a walk on a familiar trail during the early morning just to see what I could see. Even the sound of the ubiquitous blue jays was distant. The wind wasn’t stirring, and the forest felt as though it was dozing.

I tried not to make any sound as I walked along the old path. Sometimes, despite my best efforts, my boot found a twig and cracked it. Even that sound didn’t alarm the residents. If they heard me, they gave no sign. The woods might as well have been deserted.

After a while, I went off the path and walked through the woods. I can’t do that in summer when the underbrush and annual plants are growing. So winter is the time when I walk where there is no trail.

After a while, I came across an old stone fence. It means that at one time these woods, where trees are now 120-150 years old, was once a field. Stone fences were created when the original farmers cut down the trees and cleared the land. This area of Pennsylvania is very rocky, and those farmers had to put the rocks somewhere. Usually, they didn’t want to put them very far from the cleared land. That was too much work. So they built stone fences along their property lines or to mark off a field or a pasture.

I know of two nearby ruins that were once foundations of either barn or house. This fence is far enough away from both that I’m guessing it marked the far end of a field. The fence is built on sloping land. It’s hard to imagine this spot was ever good for crops. It’s nearly as hard to picture these forested hills as cleared land.

But cleared they were and now the forest has reclaimed its own, taken back what was once taken away. But for how long? I always wonder how long any of the forests around me will remain. Construction and building, houses and developments move ever closer, grow ever larger, year by year.

We are too greedy, we humans. We always want more and bigger. We grow ever more populous. The next time these forests are taken, they may never be able to take back their own again.  Nothing that humans build is as beautiful as a forest, not even one that is dozing through a snowless winter. 


Scott said...

Carolyn: I took a short walk in "my" woods yesterday (Tuesday) morning and found the same thing--a real calm had settled over the forest. It was nice. I made more noise just walking than anything else alive--by far.

And, amen to your lament.

Grampy said...

I feel much the same that humans are such an invasive species to the forests. The bulldozer a true weapon of mass destruction.
Walking the forests in Kentucky I find spots with non-native flowers, when I look closer I may find a hand dug pond or cistern. Then see the remnants of an old roadway leading to the spot. I too wonder how they farmed this rugged terrain.

Carolyn H said...

Scott: the quiet in the woods is interesting in this snowless winter. I'm used to quiet when there's snow covering everything, but I thought even a bare winter forest would be a bit more active than it was. It was a nice experience, just a little odd.

Carolyn H said...

Grampy: Maybe this reason your old farms and mine were abandoned was because the spots did turn out to be not good for farming. I would have liked to have seen all the old trees before they cut them down, though.