Yesterday was cold and hazy, with fresh snow piled on last week's crust and ice. A perfect day for walking, and I went out in nearby conservation park, where the idea is to leave nature alone, save for keeping the trails relatively clear and safe -- and discouraging people from wandering off and disturbing the underbrush and the natural patterns of things. A great city refuge for a small herd of deer and a couple ambitious, fearless flocks of wild turkeys.
And for pondering.
Without the cloak of foliage, it's easy to see the underlying trees and trunks and rocks, outlined by shadow and snow. And that starkness suggests a deeper truth. In our society we like to keep our parks sanitary and our cemeteries manicured, to hide the sick and old away, to have our seafood wrapped and our beef presented to us in tidy steaks and roasts. But in the conservation park trees grow as they will, and dead trees stand until wind or relentless gravity pulls them down. And when they fall they lay in silent memory of what they were, as they decay into the earth from which they grew. Seeing them, especially the fallen old oaks and once-towering maples and pines. sometimes gives the impression that some sort of plague has fallen on the forest. But truth is the conservation park is one of the few places I go where things are not prettied up, where reality shows itself.
It interests me that the dead trees seem to have died at varying stages of life; in an orderly and Edenic world, they'd all grow out their natural lives, until they reached maximum size and age, but obviously many, perhaps most, did not. At one point along the trail two large oaks stand beside one another, like massive brothers. Or, rather, they once did. One still towers over the scene, but the other has been reduced to a huge stump, with the tree once above now stretched out into the foliage. I wonder why that's so, what quirk of nature spared one and downed the other.
And I realize how little I really know about nature, much less about the nature of things.
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