Forests have a lot to say, if we listen, look, and shift our focus from human concerns to nature concerns.
Recently friends and I were walking a remote trail in the valley of the Hamma Hamma River in the Olympic Mountains in Washington State. Even though it was late August and a sunny 75 degrees F., it was rain forest lush—mosses, ferns, and Devils Club near all the seeps.
The canopy around us was an even-aged stand of Pacific silver fir with scattered stumps of old trees that had been cut here decades ago at the edge of the Skokomish Wilderness area. Some of the old cedar stumps were six feet in diameter. Huge trees once graced this hillside.
“How would it have felt to walk into this forest before it was cut?” I wondered to myself.
Up and up we climbed—through the forest with its almost uniform-sized trees, across an opening caused by a winter avalanche below the imposing scree slope of Mt. Pershing.
Then we entered a forest that had never experienced saw blades. There we found trees hundreds of feet high and bigger around than the four of us could extend our arms. There was very little underbrush—not much light filtered down to the forest floor here. We four walked in awe.
We were walking in another world. Two hundred years ago, maybe five hundred years ago, the cathedral Douglas fir trees surrounding us were seedlings seeking light—youth finding their way amongst the elders of those long ago old growth forests. And now here they are—elders in a world of cell phones, airplanes, and automobiles . . . somehow they have survived blizzards and rock falls and still they contribute to the world the gift of oxygen production, slope stability, and wildlife habitat. Their ability to adapt to ever changing environmental conditions is a model for me.
My job at this point in my life is to survive the vagaries of life and remain a contributing member of my family and community so that I can continue to keep growing/keep holding place. Changes are coming that I cannot begin to foresee and my presence will be needed as surely as this forest depends on the presence of its old ones.