Evening walks are not so easy or so spirit-soothing these days
on unsteady legs that caution “slowly” for fear of tumbling down
the face of the limestone bluff that plunges into Trout River Valley
several hundred tree-stump-studded and rock-faced yards below.
Hurrying, I fell two springs past, somersaulted and thumped my skull
hard against the toppled bole of an ironwood girdled and poisoned
along with a hundred other ‘trash’ trees as part of my greedy plan
to improve the logging value of this woods which we will never log.
I had it coming, that knock on the head, from that tree, tit for tat,
but I still groused it was unfair. Living fifteen years with the guilt
of gutting out a scrub forest of misshapen but fiercely alive ironwood
and aspen and box elder and elm and cedar with tangled understory
that sheltered a hundred acres’ worth of wildness on less than twenty,
should have been punishment enough, but a good whack to the head
told me to repent again, often, my mistake of pride and ignorance.
This and all other mistakes of pride and ignorance. Well-intentioned,
all for good reasons at the time, but what does a dying ironwood care
for intentions or reasons when the cambium that carries the flow
of its milky lifeblood is slashed open and tainted with blue venom?
The wildness has returned, almost, to what it was fifteen years ago.
Dead ironwoods don’t care to forgive me, but eighty soaring walnuts
don’t care to shame me either, and the young maples are clueless,
remembering none of this, emerging later on from ruptured seed pods
in the thin humus of damp leaves and rotted tree trunks that flesh out
the bluff’s limestone skeleton. Today, in a thicket of stinging nettle,
I find crushed ferns where a doe dropped her fawn, licked it alive
and nursed it in secret a few days before they arose and left together,
knowing nothing of the former trash-tree tangled glory of this place
as it was years back before seven generations of deer family history.
The ironwood knows, and I know. I signed the paper for its execution
and it bided its time and delivered revenge with a brain concussion.
Me and this woods, maybe we’re even-up now and can start over.