It was in tourist country, the Adirondack High Peaks Wilderness Area that is not a wilderness anymore because it is severely overrun by tourists. As beautiful as the High Peaks are, they are not worth sharing a few miles of trail with fifty people trashing it and even actually crapping on it.
Half of what I say is meaningless; but I say it
so that the other half may reach you.
–Kahlil Gibran, Sand and Foam
Well before dawn today I sauntered barefoot around the outer edges of the yard, out of range of the motion-sensing lights on the house. Mentally half adrift, luxuriating in sensory silliness for about thirty minutes, in the dark, in a warm, light rain, clothed in a summer robe treated with bug repellent, hat & bandana flowing out from under it (also treated), otherwise attired only in warmer-than-usual night air. The rain slowed to a drizzle and breezes gradually picked up, turning the air to silk on my skin. No lights but the ones in me and around me. They get brighter as I spend more time in the dark.
I walked out the north side of the driveway, 250 feet to the road. There are no cars at that hour. I walked down the yellow lines in the silent road for a minute, noticing the pavement was still warmer than the grass, even after a lot of rain. I stood still and listened to a gust rattling drenched leaves to a roar of tree internal rain. The wind foretold of a change to a clear day.
Returning on the south side of the driveway, I walked in the shallow ditch that drains the water from the yard. It entertained my feet and my soul with cool puddles in squishy grass and white clover heads in my toes.
I poked around in short parts of the trails nearest the house. Steinwald Path as far as the giant spruce, and back. Whitetail Way to Rock Wall 2, through Delaney Place to the original Camp Balsamea, past the shed and Buddy’s Tree, then out Balsamea Way to Arbor Lane and Concordia.
I did not earn this forest home. I remembered the grace, unmerited favor, while standing in Concordia, one of the sacred places in Balsamea where I am more apt to be mindful of the blessings, if I stop moving and be absorbed by what is there.
The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago.
The next best time is now.
~ Chinese Proverb
The Balsamean; Scribblements from Balsamea contains 34 posts about relationships with trees or forests, out of 128 total posts in the ten years from September 2012 to May 2022. This is the 128 posts remaining after many were withdrawn from publication. (There were also many drafted and never published.) Still, of the published ones NOT removed, 34 of 128 are about trees, forests, and human integration with trees, or immersion in them. That’s 27% of the total posts. It is not enough.
Between every two pines is a doorway to a new world.
I promise that if you stay with this post to the end, you won’t be sorry. If you start feeling sorry, feel free to just jump to the end!
I want to follow-up on my post of January 3, 2020, I Am Australian Today. I’m concerned that it will be forgotten because the news media have moved on to the latest crises. I’m not letting go of it. I want to remember that we ARE STILL all burning together. Watch what happens when Antarctica starts dropping whole worlds of ice into the ocean, which is coming soon to a planet near you. Have you heard? Greenland is pouring ice melt water into the ocean at a rate equivalent to the mass of 2,000 elephants per second! No kidding. I saw an ice expert who studies Greenland say it.
I owe it to myself to not let rapacious news feeds — including the best of them on public broadcast services — feed on my attention as though it were theirs to consume, not mine to apply. And there is no more important news than the planet’s ability to sustain life (as we know it and depend on it).
I’m not certain that humanity really should continue to exist. Maybe it’s time we went the way of the dinosaurs (although they did not kill their own world). Fine. But we don’t have the right to destroy the world for all the other species.
I thought of a hundred things to write here, and still have not come up with something to say that does not feel like feeble gibberish, but I’ll try to pass along some reflection and information. My thoughts are almost soulless compared with the pulse-pounding call of Australian soul today.
I’m just an American typical nobody, mostly ignorant of Australia like most of us. It’s a horrid way to wake up to her, burning.
I live in the Adirondack Park of far northern New York, in a sort of box between Canada, Vermont/Lake Champlain and Lake Ontario. This “park,” a combination of public and private land, they like to call “six million acres of wilderness.” Since retirement, my whole world is here. I never go anywhere else these days.
As of this morning (Friday, January 3, 2020), far, far more than six million acres is gone, burned up in Australia’s fires. In Australia, about 5,800,000 hectares (about 14,300,000 acres) have burned or are burning. That’s much more than double my entire 6 million acre world. Unfathomable to me, but my heart knows what my mind can’t grasp or say.
It scattered seventy trees across or into Balsamea’s 2.5 miles of trails. It’s seventy-give-or-take; I lost count a couple of times while stopping to think about how to deal with some of the fallen trees. Thinking never has been a reliably good idea. It often interferes with nobler processes, even vital ones.
The big winds came on Thursday and Friday, October 31 & November 1, 2019. It is the biggest such storm tree impact in Balsamea’s 14.5-year history. Before now, the biggest one was the “717 Storm” of July 17, 2012.
I’ll never forget the way my heart sank into my stomach when I found 33 trees on the trails on July 18, 2012. Working on clearing them and rerouting paths around some of them — never with a chainsaw, which violates Balsamea law — I learned that it was good for me and good for the trails. Often when I addressed a change that Nature threw onto a trail, the result was a better trail or connection to another trail. I’m sure I don’t have to explain why it’s good for me to go work in the woods, for mind and body and whatever else I may be.
My little Cadivus story of September 7, 2018 explains the immersive experience of co-creating trails with Nature. Handy excerpts if you don’t want to read the Cadivus post (I don’t blame you):
(continued from Nuala’s Tree and Concordia post)
Nuala’s Tree is a red maple (Acer rubrum) with four partly intertwining trunks rooted at the edge of a big old pine stump. I dedicated the tree to Nuala in 2009 or earlier. The oldest picture I have is from 2009, below.
The brighter background is because of the logging next door. It changes the habitat of Balsamea forever in several ways. I try not to think about it anymore.
Concordia is a park-like area of about 0.3 acre surrounding Nuala’s Tree. Almost all of the development of Concordia occurred in August-September 2019. Before that, there was just some minor maintenance to keep the tree from being overgrown by pines and balsam firs.
I don’t need to give special attention to a tree for it to have personal meaning, nor need I seek personal meaning in a tree. However, sometimes a tree seeks it in me, like a contemplative interaction probing the soul. That’s Nuala’s Tree.
Hi Folks. National Take a Hike Day is Saturday, November 17, 2018. I invite you to join me in taking this challenge farther than asked by my friends at the American Hiking Society in their article Why Technology Should Take A Hike, beginning with posting this picture on your [whatever kind of] website.
It’s a good article loaded with source-cited research results about:
After half a foot of sticky, soggy snowfall overnight, today the temperature at Balsamea rose well above freezing. Along our trails, rapidly thawing snow showered from the trees everywhere in these dense woods, especially from the pines and firs, those bearers of great snow-loads.
It fell in droplets, spoonfuls, cupfuls, bucketfuls and barrowfuls. The still, windless air said nothing while each of these sizes played their particular sounds, all around me patting, drumming, shushing and thumping their way through tree limbs, branches, twigs and evergreen boughs, then concluding each phrase with a strike on the snow on the ground. They formed an unusual percussive symphony unique to this particular circumstance, in a special variation playing upon atypical conditions in the fresh snow cover.
When or where can you hear nature using trees and snow as instruments to drench the still air in sound this way, with a variety of visual effects, too? When do you get to sit in the middle of the orchestra as it plays? It filled the air within a great dome surrounding me, simultaneously at every volume possible to my ears. Some notes played a few feet from me, ranging out to ones played barely within hearing. Some struck funny notes on my ball cap and shoulders.
Trees get so much attention in this drifting journal, The Balsamean, because they are easier to write about than people are, and trees often make better friends than most people do, and the tree fairies would sprout leaves green with envy in the middle of winter if I gave as much time to humanity as to them.
This is another long post, about 3,000 words, but it has lots of pictures, one of my favorite poems (a famous classic), and a piece of original art by The Balsamean.
It took a year to write this. It’s not that I took a year to start it. I worked on it dozens of times beginning last September. The earlier versions were close to 6,000 words, and told too many stories that deserve articles of their own.
If not for too many long sentences, this would be an easy read. But my readers are sharp. And it’s especially readable if you just take a seat, slow down and act like the world moves at the speed it should, not the one it does.
Don’t read it in a hurry. It took a year to get here.