There were days when the temperature topped 33 degrees, even underneath the mottled shade of the towering pines around our campsite.
We indulged in siestas or fell into a sloth-like torpor and moved as little as possible. Once the sun set (and the skeeters came out to play – I swear there’s a skeeter waiting for me on Mars!) below the high ridge, there were still several hours of light in which to frolic and gambol. Or at least go for long leisurely walks along the tree shaded trails.
I walked between the old, old, trees and entered a world that’s only nebulously connected to this physical reality. (that sensation of being someplace ‘else’ when you’re walking quietly through a forest)
I delved down below the forest floor carpeted with generations of pine needles, old cones, and sloughed bark. Down to the caverns beneath the world where the roots of the trees tap into the Spirit of the Land. Where they intertwine and tell each other their stories.
Their conversations were sad, but tinged with the wisdom of the bones of the earth.
The beetles were killing them, they said, slow and sure. Some were wild with fear and spent all their energy whipping their branches about in dismay and had nothing left to confront the enemy with.
Some slept so deep they barely had time to get their sap flowing before their doom rose up through trunk and branch and needle.
“But what will you do?” I cried, my heart breaking as I witnessed their stories, one after another, after another. “The damage is so great, and there is so little time.”
A venerable grande dame ‘tsk’ed’ at me for my haste. “We,” she said, gesturing through the caverns to where the deep roots withered away. “Cannot win this battle. Here in our valley we strive to hold back the tide so that others, elsewhere, will survive. It is an acceptable end to our story.”
The pine beetle is one of many species able to exploit this new world around us.
Forests are being replanted with a variety of species the ill-thought out forestry practices of the past neglected in favor of the quick-growing soft-wood pine trees.
But hectares of blighted trees rend the heart, non-the-less.