There’s a birch grove on the banks of a stream.
In the Cascadia valley. They are a little crooked. With shallow roots, soft wood, susceptible to blade and fire.
On the western side, a yellow immigrant mold blooms near the blackened cankers sunken in the fleshy bark.
It may seem foreign, but really, it grows from within.
From the rotting and the death microorganisms do what they do best, they eat away at decay.
Fuzzy evergreen moss patches cling to their eastern branches. Beads of sap cover over the black death. Though, it’s too late.
It’s called an invasion, could even be said to be terrorism. Domestic terrorism.
A gentle breeze rustles the pale trident leaves.
Every birch trunk along the bank has the same patchy yellow fungus growing.
The microorganisms are carried along by a bark beetle, subtly, like the effects of an idea on the mind. They deployed in this area some time ago. Now they have roots.
This grove is not the first, and won’t be the last. The fungus has invaded the seeds. The spores might say its their homeland and this their birth right. Nationalist fungus.
The glint of cottonwood leaves
and helicopter seeds
the underbelly of the osprey
that circles above
above the Cedar river
above the moss laden and
bare maple crowns.
Splunk of rocks.
We held each other.
I closed my eyes
everything is spinning
in some secret way.
And I’m wired to
not even notice.
emerge beyond the treeline
move with the wind
and make abstract shapes
which my mind insists
is a dragon head.
Now my head is spinning
and my heart beats faster,
and I just want this moment
to last forever.
I just keep plowing forward
without knowing where i’m going.
We left the house thinking we were searching for freedom; the american ideal. I wanted to see what Ken Burns was looking for all these years, put a face to the name in a way. We figured freedom meant it was free, so we went to the trails, the mountains and parks. It was mid October, but had yet to be much of an autumn.
On our way into the neighborhood there are no signs for the park. No mention of Spring Lake, or Lake Desire. So I figured perhaps these were man-made lakes for the private enjoyment of the residents. Roads diverge, like capillaries, off the main vein. Houses pock the sides like cancer cells. The 390 acre park is densely forested and in the neighborhood we start to get the feel that we are entering the right area. Broad-leafed Maple limbs hang over the roadway. Redwood cedars contort around houses and their low skirts dance over the tops of cars parked along the side of the street.
This whole area of forested overgrowth surrounds a primeval cinder cone. Here is evidence of the ancient outcroppings of a network of volcanoes that helped to form the region. Prehistoric man would have worshiped these mounds of fire and fury as the womb of The Mother. Perhaps they did as they built their own burial mounds. Now, though, it’s been fossilized and covered by centuries of innovation, evolution and death.
Follow me, I’m the leader! You say again and again. Almost as if to bait an argument. I, in turn, said in my head, no! I’m the leader, but instead smile and shake my head. The forest floor is caked with leaves, the path a patchwork of crimson and bronze, chanterelle and death. Late morning sunlight filters through the treeline, fog and a patchwork of leaves on branches, mostly big leaf maple, clinging to the eventuality of rebirth. The trodden path slick with chewed up leaves, like overnight puke stains on the sidewalk. But off the path, between the trunks and ferns, the fallen leaves make up a bed and blanket for the fruit that fell a few weeks earlier -providing the seeds a chance to spring to life.
Out here there is no leader, only the whispers of wind high and low. Only the stubborn secrets of the elder Doug-firs. Out here we don’t put anyone above or below because we’re capable of seeing the vast network of cooperation, which is the only order we belong to.
Along the way we pass the stump of a felled tree, which you insist on jumping on top of and having your picture snapped. I oblige. If only to inspect the stump afterword to point out the fact that it represents a generation which now provides the ground for new growth; all kinds of species, gender, and cultures, without persecution or discrimination, it welcomes all, and that like the stump, we too will provide sustenance for new generations. So it’s up to us to make sure that what we offer is good enough to sustain not just the next generation, but many more after that too.
There is a meadow surrounded by conifers, like a secret tucked away at the top. It is nearly pristine, you said something like, “whoa!” But the secret was not ours alone, between the evergreens there were houses on either side, vacation homes no doubt, perhaps now year round Airbnb rentals. It serves as just another reminder of how there is not a place that civilization has not traveled. A moment before we were explorers, discoverers, and now we have discovered only what has been claimed by others a few dozen years ago. It is a microcosm of an ever-expanding economy that knows no bounds other than the expansion of its own growth. Still though we sat -as the signs asked- on the path, and simply observed change.
The economy of the earth, of the ancient, is far greater than that of mankind. Why would we expect to outlast nature herself? since after all we too are nature. At the center of everything and just under our feet is the fossilized prehistoric cinder cone. Where once the bowels of the great mother bellowed, is now flush with verdant technological advancements of moss and perennial, of evergreen boles and rocky outcroppings from since the beginnings. Here in the fog and the dim sunlight, the spires sway and give way to the wind. Here even the moss sings, if you listen closely enough. We sit for a while and watch nothing in particular and everything all at the same time. It seems we’ve found peace just for a moment. This is where, for the first time, you discovered grasshoppers; camouflaged by the emerald grass they hop from between your feet and you instinctively try to catch and chase, laughing your genuine childish laughter.
Ancient cinder cone
Amongst fog burnt daylight,
Evergreen spires –
Ah! What a feeling!
Sprigs of hemlock hang low with frost. The blue-green spruce stands in contrast to the seas of fog covering the valley.
Heart shaped leaves of cottonwood hang stiff and sing autumns choral defiance.
It’s the first frost and today,
It is your birthday.
Today is the First Day. It’s like this. And it isn’t.
You stretch like the cedar, and fall like the pine.
Your history, your every lived moment, and those of your ancestors, ones you’ve known -and those you never knew- stretch back and reach forward in this now.
You are the rising sun hidden behind evergreen mountains and cottontail fog.
You are the memory of every spoken verse. The cascading waves of light, dancing in the permafrost glow.
You are the seasons change. And I may never know your name, but this is how I know you.