My Blog List

Friday, November 6, 2015

Legacy of Life

   It's Indian Summer. A day as warm and sun-kissed as June. Yet, the scent of autumn is on the air, for we have had our killing frost, the foliage is almost over, the dry leaves skirl in the breeze. It's early morning and I am out cutting cedar for Christmas decorating. As I gather, the warm cedar smell , faint and elusive, wreaths around me, and I am years and miles away in fragrant dreams.
   It's the old Norse in me. I know this. My Scandinavia coming along  and getting the beast of me. Of the many legacies I received from my Father, I am gifted with the love of trees, and the love of books. Books covers so many things. things like Words, beautiful flowing words, knowledge, imagination, hope, love. And Trees. Norse mythology is entwined around trees. I know this because my father had books about it. Books that I read. I clearly remember standing in my parents home, by the glass door, in the gloaming light of the Douglas Fir forest, reading one of those books. My Mother said, "You are just like your Father, standing there, reading, when there is a comfy chair right there you could sit in." I stopped reading, for that minute. Something inside of me glowing with happiness. No one had ever said that to me before. "you are just like your Father."
    The Scandinavians believed that all life was centered around the tree. And when you examine it? Its true. Life begins in the roots, and lives and breathes, and branches out and makes new growth, and grows and always there are the insects, the birds, the animals, the humans that contribute to its growing. And it feeds them, and shelters them and gives them life. And when it has accomplished every thing then it slowly dies down and feeds the good ground and makes new life.
     I think of all this, now under the cedar tree. It was here when I came here, those many years ago. Much smaller, then. Now it is a huge old tree. It measures seven feet around the bottom of the trunk. The Ice Storm a few years ago took off the top half of the tree so it's not so tall any more. But still it flourishes. Generations of children have climbed it and swung from the branches and hid among them. Always it is green, full of tiny clusters of cones. Full of birds and squirrels. The roots and the trunk are smooth and grey. It's a beautiful tree.
     My father loved his trees. When he finally built his own house, he picked a spot in an old growth Doug Fir forest. He only cut enough trees to put in his house. No more. If you have ever been in the Pacific Northwest, in the forest, you know what I am speaking of. Straight and tall, close together. Soft and gloomy, with only shafts of filtered sunlight streaming through the vast network of trees. Damp and mossy, every trunk covered with moss. If I suddenly became blind, and some one brought me there, I would know by the smell that I was among the giant firs.
     The trees hid the house from the road, and the curved drive kept you from seeing the house until you suddenly came to the clearing. At night it was dark in those woods, for you could not see the stars. Only the owls talked in the scented darkness, and the coyotes called from the hills. But he loved those trees. Never would he cut one down, unless it clearly needed to be gone. One day he took me out through the dim path to the edge of his property. He was already old and ancient as his trees, I walked behind him. He was unsteady on his feet. But he pointed out certain trees. Trees that he loved. And we came to the prize of his forest. He knew how wide it was. How tall. How many board feet of lumber it would make. We leaned against it and looked up, up, up, into the heavens and we didn't have to talk. My Father and I. We knew that he would never need to make lumber from that tree.
     I married a man that also loves trees. But in a more practical way. Our life revolves around trees. Here in New England there are more trees than any thing else. We stay warm with trees. We manage our woodlot, so there will always be trees for us. Interesting to note: the word ecology comes from the Greek word oikos, which means house. (Taking care of your house!) We built a home with those trees. We cut them down and we saw them up and we split them and pile them and lug them in the house and feed the wood stoves. The stoves warm us, and cook for us, and make cheerful crackling sounds and dry clothes, and yes..they make our life.
     Every spring, we tap the maple trees, collect the sap, and boil down that beautiful amber syrup that sweetens our lives and helps sustain us. My children grew up to love trees, too. And my grandchildren. And hopefully, my great grandchildren. Many generations. Some of them are loggers and sawyers. Some of them draw them and paint them. Some of them write about them. All of read about them. And we love trees. The legacy goes on.
     An old Scandinavian poem reads:
              " Talk of what Home is -
                 snow and forest is home.
                 From the first moment they are ours.
                Before any one has told us that it is snow and forests.
                They have a place in us,  and since they are there,
                Always and always. Come Home.
                Go in there bending branches -
                Go on till you know what it means to belong."