i’ve taken you so much for granted,
lovely forest on my doorstep,
strange hybrid of native and ‘introduced’ species,
most at early stages of succession from land once farmed
and then abandoned,
with a few plantation sections, row on row, original purpose unknown.
what did this land look like, i wonder
before the first human eyes encountered it
and the first human hands began its sad ‘improvement’?
how long now before the damage of our species is undone?
such messy wetlands are not meant for man’s endeavour:
swamp and mud and rotted trees pocked with holes for creatures
fit to glide with ease from land, to pond, to sky.
and in the winter, drowned in snow and cold so still time stops.
man the surveyor looks at this chaotic scene, and dreams of draining out the marsh for grain
and chopping up the fallen trees for fuel: we like our beauty ordered, tamed.
i’ve walked these deer-worn trails a hundred times, but still
i do not know the names that humans call these trees;
my guidebooks sit unopened, useless as the facts within them.
i wish at least i knew which ones belong and which are new, invasive,
hogging all the sun and rain and soil like managers hog time in meetings.
such a mystery you are to me, a tiny piece of grace in touch with all the life on Earth
in ways i can’t imagine, now i’m deaf to nature’s primal tongue.
i do my best these days to still my mind and listen, sense and give attention,
not to think of what it means or represents,
or feel the grief of gaia’s loss that haunts me everywhere:
but just to sit and be here, now.
though i cannot.
this is my first farewell, for soon i’m gone:
this land’s too harsh for my arthritic bones and weary heart.
you’ll always be a part of me, and i of you, my land, my love, my teacher too.
we’re so alike: untidy, neither natural nor civilized, a little sad, a little wild,
a little worn, untamed and proud
and every year
a bit more silent.
thank you for your voice, your gentleness with me,
the other creatures that are part of you
and all you’ve showed me of adapting and of wisdom.
i understand at last the message you’ve proclaimed
for all who dare to hear, since life began a billion years ago:
a whisper in the wind, a rustle in the rain,
a baby’s peep, a robin’s song, the turtle’s ancient swim to spawn,
the senses’ spell, the cry of love and joy
and being one with all,
and welcome always,
photos by the author, on a blustery day this past weekend, in albion hills conservation forest, beside and part of where he lives, for now