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Requiem for a Forest
A fable about the Uplands silver maple forest that we hope never becomes reality
By Virginia Fuller

"The tree which moves some to tears of joy is in the eyes of others only a green thing that stands in the way."
                              William Blake

For weeks, from early morning to late afternoon, the chain saws have been working. The air has been filled with their merciless whine and with the sound of trees falling to earth. There are many chain saws and there is no time of silence when only the echo of a tree falling fills the air. On the contrary, when one chain saw stops, others carry on for it from other directions, without interruption, a hoard of mechanical termites creating devastation that is perfectly coordinated and implemented. The whine does not resume because it never stops. It is unremitting, day after day, destroying shadowed thickets and hidden copses, driving out the wildlife forever.

"Humanity is cutting down its forests, apparently oblivious to the fact that we may not be able to live without them."
                              Isaac Asimov

The floor of what was once a rare and beautiful silver maple forest is now a landscape of desolation and ugliness, littered with the bodies of trees that are still tender and green in their broken places. Some are barely saplings while others before the clear-cutting commenced could have been said to be majestic in their girth and strength. In what were once lush secret glades, their stumps and branches and boughs have lost their grace, piled one upon the other in harsh angles that no longer have the symmetry of nature but the disorder of destruction. The hollowed out places within them that once provided homes for the woodpecker and other cavity nesters gape open, sightless, dead and empty to the sky. Upended roots speak eloquently of what once received solidity and nourishment from the breast of the earth beneath.

There, in the heart of it all, lies the pile of deadwood that was once the great Mother Tree. From above, unfiltered by any branches or canopy of leaves, the sun's rays touch the ruined land, a benediction on all that has been lost.

Clear-cut is the term. Then there will be clean-up. Then there will be pavement.

"How can you expect the birds to sing when their groves are cut down?"
                              Henry David Thoreau

Gone now is the magical orchestration incorporating all the sounds of nature, unseen creatures busy with a multitudinous array of tasks and pursuits, scripted in Nature's perfection for each species, interwoven in a kind of magic no matter what one's spiritual beliefs. Gone the message to each of us that we hear when we choose to leave the madding crowd and to lose ourselves in solitary contemplation - the birdsong, the scampering but unseen feet, the sudden swoosh of a wing or a wild call high overhead.

"Who among those people with a cultivated spirit, or whose heart has been wounded, can walk in a forest without the forest speaking to him?"
                              Honoré de Balzac

In a world in which this desolate landscape does not yet exist, I walked one day in the Upland woods, in the silver maple forest. I was not there alone. All around me, the forest teemed with life. Along its mossy banks, tracks told stories without the need for words, and other stories were happening all around me as deep within the tangled thickets, the denizens of the forest pursued their lives beyond my sight in their secret, hidden world.

It is not too late. Not too late to find a solution for those trees - the great Mother Tree and her progeny, all the way down to the smallest spindly sapling - and for those wild creatures that live among them. Not too late to listen to the words of others wiser than ourselves whose gift for language and for wisdom transcends the ages:

My aspens dear, whose airy cages quelled,
Quelled or quenched in leaves the leaping sun,
All felled, felled, are all felled;
     Of a fresh and following folded rank
          Not spared, not one….
O if we knew what we do
     When we delve or hew -
     Hack and rack the growing green!
After-comers cannot guess the beauty been.

                              Gerard Manley Hopkins

Virginia Fuller