Walking through the woods brings refreshing shade as the trees tower above me. Streaks of warm sunlight sneak through the leaves and limbs where birds sit, chirping their morning song. I stop briefly and inhale deeply. The slightly damp, woody smell mixed with the aroma of pine and sweet blossoms is decidedly pleasing, and I draw in another long breath before continuing on the needle-covered path.
Jolted out of euphoria, I come to a standstill. In disbelief, I stare at the large tree that has fallen, like a barricade across my path. The tree looks healthy enough, and there have been no intense storms since I last passed through. I inspect further and see where the tree once mightily stood is now a mere stump with distinct chainsaw markings and sawdust covering the ground. I run my hands along the fallen trunk feeling the ridges of the bark with my fingertips. I watch as the ants scurry at my presence, taking care not to disturb their worksite as I climb over the obstacle.
I carry on but stop once again. Dismayed, I look around me, slowly, hesitantly turning in a 360-degree circle. I rub my eyes as if magically, what I am seeing would somehow be fixed when I opened them again. No. Still there, tree after countless tree, felled, methodically, wastefully, secretly, without my permission. My majestic, serene woods, littered unnecessarily with tree carcasses.
A sense of heaviness slows my steps; keeping my head down to avoid seeing the spectacle that surrounds me, I head toward the tree line where I can leave the wretched havoc behind and have a vast grassland greet me. It is familiar to me, a favorite spot I visit regularly. I feel the weight lifting a bit as I get closer, anticipating the beauty that awaits me.
I emerge from the woods and immediately start walking to the top of the hill. Head down, focused and briskly at first, then slowing as I tire and am more and more ready for a rest. I reach the top of the hill and turn around to take in the stunning view.
Usually, the view is exquisite, breathtaking; the lush green field gives way to a darker green outlines of distant trees A vibrant blue sky with puffy white clouds dispersed throughout adds to the splendor. Frequently, I walk through the meadow without hurrying, absorbing the beauty and sweetness of each of the colorful wildflowers strewn amidst the green grass blades swaying gently in the breeze. Today is different.
I position myself at the top of the hill like a lookout; my left hand set across my brow to shield my eyes from the sun, my right hand on my hip. I survey the destruction that has befallen my once magnificently peaceful place. I can’t begin to count the rutted trails of an ATV that zig zag across the field, tearing through the grass and wildflowers and spewing dirt in every direction. The grotesque disfigurement of this once picturesque, almost heavenly panorama leaves a lump in my throat and a knot in the pit of my stomach. Holding my face in my hands, I do not even attempt to stop the deluge of tears.
I allow myself a time of lamentation, grieving my loss. In due time, I feel a sense of determination rise up from the sadness. A resoluteness to protect what is mine. I feel a flutter of excitement amidst nagging apprehension. Can I do this? How? Do I have what it takes?
I do, and I will.
I begin by sketching out a plan. It takes time, and in that time, I risk further damage, but a successful outcome requires it to be well thought out and meticulous. When I am satisfied with the course of action I’ve plotted, it is time to gather the necessary material and tools to complete the work.
Finally, I am ready to begin. Donning a boonie hat, t-shirt, cargo pants, and work boots, I labor daily, sweating under the blistering sun. On days dark clouds give me respite from the sun, I swap out my work boots for rubber ones, and with rain pouring off the brim of my hat, I continue the job. I can not afford to miss a single day and delay any further the restoration of my endangered territory.
I am building a fence – driving in post after post along the border of the luscious green meadow, to the cool babbling brook, through the woods until I am back once again to the first post I drove into the ground. I begin to install the fence rails with painstaking attention to detail as this boundary must hold fast. I reach the point where the gate posts await their counterpart. I position the gate and attach the heavy-duty hinges and latch. I push in the durable lock and ponder its necessity. I continue on rail after well-built rail, beginning to recognize the culmination of my efforts. At last, I have finished the job. I survey the landscape, now outlined with a robust boundary discouraging trespassers and a gate for invited guests, and am very proud of my work.