In the midst of a dying forest, beneath a massive 8-prong oak — a tree of courage and strength — I sit. The oak stands in one of three Monterey pine forests in the world. This forest where I live on California’s Central Coast, is both a nature’s paradise and the self-evidence of a changing environment. It’s the mother lode of juxtaposition.
Jays squabble. Like a drummer in the wild, a woodpecker hammers into a tree. A grey squirrel jettisons straight up an 80-foot pine. Tiny birds, backlit by the morning sun, flutter in the oak’s high branches. The gobble of wild turkeys echo in the forest. The woodsy incense of forest-life and debris invigorates my senses.
Here, life seems abundant. But this rare forest dies a bit more with each blink of my eyes. Pines with green needles last week, are now tinged in burnt-sienna — the first sign of a tree’s fight for life.
Drought. Disease. Age. People. Earth. Wind. Fire. Water. Planetary juxtaposition of elements.
I revel in the peace here. The forest sings. But like a lead anvil chained to my heart, I’m weighted down in sadness and concern.
This juxtaposed moment is something bigger than me.
Pink ribbons and splotches of red paint mark a deceased army of Monterey pines destined for the chainsaw. Experts seem stumped beyond putting to rest the dead, overgrown and diseased trees.
As I wandered the forest path to this bench this morning, I passed by seedling Monterey pines. They stood straight, green, and eager to grow. They brought to mind the gentle man, a friend of mine, who grew them from seed. Like the cancer of this changing planet, he fell prey to the disease of errant cells. I imagine his ashes spread among them.
But as I write this, two forestry students, thin, jaunty, and without a wrinkle on their skin, hike past me sitting on this bench beneath an 8-prong oak tree. They search for solutions, they said.
Solutions, seedlings, and youth juxtaposed on an old and changing planet.