The Forest That Disappeared

The Forest That Disappeared, Illustrations by Diane Wood

The Forest That Disappeared, Illustrations by Diane Wood

I wanted to show Jean a beautiful place where I had camped 15 years ago. It was at the entrance of an ancient forest in a distant valley. Majestic trees cast a green shade there, and a stream carried water from a cool spring. Moss lay thick upon the ground, and the silence of the forest was broken from time to time by the singing of birds and the gentle sighing of the wind.

There were more logging roads in that part of the country than there had been 15 years earlier, and I wasn’t sure which one to take.

“Try one road, and if that doesn’t work, try another,” Jean said.

That’s what we did, and we drove for another 10 miles. “The land doesn’t look the way I remember it,” I said.

“It never does,” Jean said.

Then I recognized a group of aspens. We stopped the car and walked towards them. My old campsite had been on the other side of these trees, and as we walked through the aspen grove, I remembered how beautiful the campsite was. Instead of my campsite, however, we found a wasteland.

Where my tent had stood was an abandoned landing for a logging operation. The grass-covered clearing was gone. The trees that had given me shade were gone. The spring that had given me water was a muddy pool, buried under 10 feet of debris.

The ancient forest was gone. Not one tree left.

I rushed this way and that way, looking for a forest that had disappeared. Jean, struggling to keep up with my furious pace, shouted, “Sandy, what’s wrong?”

I turned to her, not answering. An entire forest couldn’t disappear like that. Maybe I was in the wrong place. “If I can find my bearings, everything will be as it was before,” I said to myself.

Rushing up a steep hill, I reached a place where I could see more clearly. Fifteen years ago, I had climbed up here at night with the moon full and the night so bright I could walk through the forest without danger. From the crest of this hill I had seen the moon shining on the valley, the ancient forest, and the snow-peaked mountains. Fifteen years later all I could see was a catastrophe of stumps and broken limbs.

“I wanted to show you a sacred place,” I said to Jean.

“Yes,” Jean replied.

“There’s no restraint here, no respect,” I said, and I thought of the gigantic corporations that will not rest until they have cut down every tree on earth, or sold every cupful of pure water. “Such utter destruction, and for what moral purpose?” I continued. “They don’t know what they’re doing. It is themselves they murder.”

“And us,” Jean said.

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