On a recent walk through an old horse carriage roadway (now an utility easement unavailable to vehicular traffic), my husband came across a lovely antique marble. The marble isn't even round, in the way of antique marbles, it has variations to it.
It is a cat's eye green marble and what was probably once clear glass is now slightly milky. There are some scratches in it; who knows how long it may have lain in the dirt of the carriage way, or how many fierce rainstorms tumbled it through the ravine? It is a lovely reminder of times gone by, of childhood played out and transferred to the indifference of adulthood.
Much of this country can still boast places that cars can't go. Where people rarely go because their cars can't take them there. The particular easement that my husband went walking on lies at the bottom of a steep ravine, or canyon, which until recently had been full of scrub trees. In the 1940s, electricity lines were run to the community the ravine is part of, effectively shutting of the rights of horse drawn carriages to use it for transport of goods and ice delivery. And for the most part, other than the Amish people, after the 1950s the United States became a car culture. Indiana, home of the Brickyard Race Track and almost the car center of the country, claims the highest number of cars to people in the Midwest.
Within the past 3 weeks, the utility company which owns the easement rights to the old roadway, began to clear cut most of the canyon area in order to avoid falling trees from damaging their utility poles and lines. The people who live on the canyon have enjoyed a rare bit of wilderness as their private back yard for years.
Now that many of the trees have been felled, they also realize that this action may allow them to not lose their electric power next time a large storm comes through their area. They are sorry to see the trees go though and wonder if they will ever see the number of song birds that had graced their lives before the trees were taken down.
"Trees are the poems that the earth writes upon the sky". That is a line which I created and used within a watercolor painting of a tree shape that I did some 10 years ago. Before I began the painting I came to realize that as much as I loved and valued trees, I did not know much about them. I bought some books.
The favorite of my tree books is like a Roger Tory Peterson bird book. It is called "Trees of the Eastern United States" and like a bird book, it shows maps of where specific trees are more prevalent, characteristics of those trees, leaf shapes, bark texture and average height and girth for each species. I study these books on a variety of occasions, especially when a particular tree catches my eye. When preparing my sketches for the tree painting, I spent hours in the forest on the shores of Lake Michigan drawing saplings and learning how the different species of tree grew. If I thought I loved trees before, once I began to know them, I felt an entirely different kind of love for them.
Back to the marble and the trees. When we cut a tree down, we may do so for a variety of reasons; the tree may be a nuisance tree, destructive to house or person.
A tree may be diseased or infested with parasite which threatens the health of many trees. Sometimes trees are cut because they are in the way of someone's plans. I can understand cutting trees for all reasons other than the last one. I could never see that a tree was 'in the way' of a plan of mine. In fact, it seems to me that trees should be part of every plan when considering building something.
As I turn the green marble over in my hand and look for the milky essence of it, I think of how many trees may have bore the initials of perhaps the owner of the marble. I consider how many of the trees might have been climbed by boys and girls as they tried to see their canyon from a higher vantage point. I think of the green leaves and the smell of thunder and lightening on the air turning the trees to giant wooden lungs for this planet. I can not turn a tree over and over in the palm of my hand as I can turn the green marble. But I can wonder at how trees are the grace of this planet and how they dance in the breeze and bend with the winds of storms, and of change.