Wednesday, December 27, 2017

A Few Thoughts on Forest....

Happy Holidays dear friends and family; we wish you goodness and love for 2018!

Before the deep freeze set in, we enjoyed a super balmy December walk and wanted to share the beauty we discovered on this particular hike made more poignant because we are digging deep into some thoughtful reading material this winter (listed below) and are reconnecting with our solid rooting in nature. What a JOY to remember it's all about the know, instinctively, we are not separate from this planet that we live on and that we are bound by visible and invisible threads uniting us to all life. The immensity and grace of this remembering continues to reshape our thoughts and feelings and all we previously learned to be true. It's time for a reckoning, I believe.

American Holly makes me so darn happy every single time I see it - those festive berries and brilliant evergreen leaves lend such artistry to winter landscapes.

As many of you know, both of us have a complete and thorough love affair with vast wilderness and mountains and alpine lakes and clear streams and sunshine and any and all things rocky and ancient and that we also have this innate, homeland love of Eastern Deciduous Forest. What you may not know though, is that this love of these Eastern forests is really hollering at us lately and when I say hollering, I mean HOLLERING.

I think somehow growing up where we did (IN) we loved the trees, but took them for granted in a million ways and forgot to talk to them and to listen to them. We didn't use the right language to talk about them and we didn't always see that trees want to grow in forests and that forests are different than trees and that the forests' elegance is in their unity, in their inclusivity, in their binding of threads. Trees give us so much and spending time amongst them is such a gift. I mean pinch me! Do I really get to live amongst these beings? Walking down the trail, I can hardly keep my hands off their trunks in total and complete reverence of their lives as plants, their longevity and fortitude, diversity, beauty....

Because these trees share so much with us, we want to know them and to speak of them not as "its," but as kin (thank you Robin Wall Kimmerer). Part of knowing them is listening to them, but also paying homage and observing.

Flowering Dogwood (Cornus florida) grows bark similar to all other Flowering Dogwoods, but unique to that species so we can begin to know trees by looking at the architectural masterpiece of cork cambium. Steve is the true master of bark id and I owe my knowledge on this topic pretty much solely to him. (This love of trees rooted deep in that boy at a very young age!)

These small round plates always introduce Flowering Dogwood.

The sinewy Musclewood (Carpinus caroliniana) shows strength in the bark sinuosity.

Dead and decaying wood and organic matter is without question the foundation for all future growth in forests. With overwhelming gratitude, I thanked this Turkey Tail for the noble work of decomposition. Where would we be without it? (Yes, I do this. Yes, I am eschewing much of my learned science-without-heart crap.)

The dark coloration and thin ribbons of bark acquaints us with American Redbud (Cercis canadensis).

This particular tree tells us not only who ki is, but also a story of the past - a time when an American Beaver attempted to utilize this tree located near water to help dam the water. The wound is now scarred and healed so that the tree continues to live and photosynthesize and offer food and sustenance and shelter to so many others.

This tree grows very tall and straight, with furrowed bark, often tinged with white amongst the furrows....the spectacular Tulip Tree (Liriodendron tulipifera).

Forests hold and clean water and offer that water to us and myriad other life forms in so many ways, including as places to breed for the spectacular Wood Frog and Spotted Salamander and all the other vernal pool (seasonal wetland) dwelling life. Vernal Pools are my heart.

Somehow their pulse is my pulse and if you are someone who knows about vernal pools, you know my heart is shattered routinely as I pass plowed fields with scars of destroyed vernal pools or witness humans digging out these seasonally wet areas for their big pond, which destroys the life that depends on their seasonality. (I love big ponds too! Just not at the expense of a vernal pool.) These vernal pools are synonymous with forests because many of the species that inhabit them need both....the pool briefly for breeding and upland forest the rest of the year for food, water, shelter and room to live.

This is what we see right now on I-71 North of Columbus on the East side of the road. Another forest for sale that is filled with vernal pools. What will go there? Something that can replace the irreplaceable?

This forest and all the vernal pools are now completely gone. When we first moved here in 2010, the forest had been mostly destroyed, but the vernal pools left protected somewhat by laws and regulations. What those laws and regulations failed to consider is that vernal pools are not isolated places; they function within the relationships of the forest. Now, due to more lax laws and the questionable practice of mitigation, these vernal pools are forever gone unless some dear soul buys up this giant chunk of land, breaks the tile draining away the precious water and lets the forest heal.

And this, my friends, is where my mind and heart go daily - the goodness of the forest, the awfulness of a society based almost solely on consumerism, the goodness of people and the magic of this planet. So, we hold hope close and we put our feet forward as part of the planting revolution and part of the choir singing the praises of respecting life and one another.

Books we are reading:

The Living Forest

The Lost Language of Plants 

Finding Peace through Spiritual Practice

Songs listened to while writing:

Future People

Meet Me in the Woods

The Obvious


Steve's video on drainage tile. How ironic! Listen till the end....


  1. Lovely...your words really touched me. We are of the same thought process and I do believe it is time for a reckoning.

    1. Thank you dear Sondra. I've gathered we are kindred and I am so glad you found us and connected us.

  2. I'm behind on getting you guys an outline for the podcast---December just hit me hard.
    I'll try for next week.

    This post really resonated with me. I've been watching as they have been expanding a highway near me, tearing down some beautiful, old trees as well expand bridges over creek drainages. And then a beautiful pasture (which I know had trees on it once upon a time but the pasture is gorgeous in its own right) is up for sale and soon I know there will be tract homes on it.

    1. Don't stress about the outline...whenever you get them to us will be perfect. It's hard to witness this Earth used as a commodity to be used up and thrown out. I think there is a growing movement of people saying 'no, this isn't right,' and this makes me so hopeful about where we might head.

  3. I worry about our woods. We only have five acres of them, but they have suffered greatly. Dutch Elm disease seems to have taken all the red elm, Emerald Ash borers have destroyed all our ash trees, Our big majestic maple that sits at the edge of the forest has some other disease and the tree fungi are moving into it and limbs are dying, the grandfather beech had about half of it's top taken out by wind shear, and when those gigantic ash trees come down, they are going to break a lot of the understory. We have planted trees every year but not fast enough to keep up with the giants of the forest that are coming down. Hoping the walnut borers stay away from our black walnut trees. If you learn the secret language of trees, pleas come out and whisper some Entish words of encouragement to them!

    1. You are right, Mike. There are so many species lost to diseases introduced from faraway lands. The best we can do is use our hands to plant more, our money to plant even more and protect more and our voices to sing the magic of these wild lands. We, as a people, must reconnect with this natural world to save not only it, but ourselves. This I know is true just by the way I feel walking our little 3.5 acres now versus when we first arrived.


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