After last week’s big windstorm, my kids came in from a trek through the woods to report (with sadness) that the Twisty Pine had been damaged. Now, the Twisty Pine is a behemoth of a tree near the back corner of our property whose twin leaders spiral around one another as they climb into the sky like the double-helix structure of DNA. In recent years we’d seen woodpecker holes appear in one of the leaders, high up, and the green needles on the other began to dwindle. So we knew that things were going downhill. But it was still sad, and a little shocking, to see such a giant so violently topped – a massive weight of limbs and trunk torqued off the crown and deposited into the nearby woods. I imagine that this tree was a sapling during the days of the American Revolution, and now in my lifetime it may well be gone.
The New Year is a time where we typically think about change. Changing our habits… making new resolutions… out with the old! There’s always a surge of sign-ups at the local gym and a surfeit of shiny new exercise equipment ordered in January. (It’s funny – I’ve never heard of someone who resolved to watch more TV in the new year. Although that is usually what happens.) The change we seek is often an effort to stave off the downhill slide, an attempt to thwart entropy. We don’t like to see little pockets of rot settling into our lives or notice that crown starting to thin out. To be frank, we prefer to reject the inevitable. So, with a flurry of energy, we redouble our efforts on January 1st to take back the ground we lost and reclaim what should be ours. Of course, the trees are laughing at us.
Those fallen giants in the woods are a good reminder that change is inevitable. We humans have such a limited grasp of the goings-on this side of the dirt that we tend to see everything myopically. I smiled when I read a national headline shouting that several cities in the eastern U.S. were forecast to have their coldest Christmas Day EVER. And by ever, they mean since the National Weather Service started keeping official records, oh, a few minutes ago. Better yet was a local note about the historic nature of the ocean’s surge in Bar Harbor during the storm. I’ve been up on the mountainsides in Acadia National Park above town, where suspended beaches, sea stacks, and tidal caves lie in the forest 300 feet higher than the surf pounds today.
The stuff we make and treasure today might outlast us (and should, if we did it right!), but most of it will become the compost of a future generation. The question always worth pondering is, What good can we do that will last? Or, in the sage words of Gandalf the Grey, “All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”
Happy New Year, everyone.