Thirty years ago we rode down a rutted logging road with our friend Hiram and listened as he explained his vision for a golf course and community on the land beneath our tires. I'll admit, the picture his words were painting was hard for me to grasp. All I could see were pine trees.
They were only 6-8 feet tall...just beyond the top of our van...but they were everywhere. We were in the middle of a forest but this one was man-made. Formerly owned by International Paper, Hiram worked out a deal to buy the land to make his dream of a golf course he designed himself come true. The land had been clear-cut a few years before then replanted, and the neat rows of loblolly pines would soon give way to fairways and homes.
Thirty years. I was taken aback when I realized just how long ago that was that we made that trip. It seems impossible that three decades have elapsed since then...but they have.
I may not have seen the vision for Hiram's golf course but I did see some pretty places to have a home. I was having to take his word for what the fairway/green view would be but I could see for myself all those years ago what the elevation and horizon would look like. I had two spots picked out from that very first trip on the property, and when it became clear that lots on one of them would not be developed until much later, I picked the other. Our house sits on that very place we saw and loved from the beginning.
Here's a Google Earth view of a corner of our subdivision and that red "X" marks our house. Because we're on a curve in the road, our lot is odd-shaped. That white line left of the "X" is our driveway and if you extended it toward the green, you'd have a rough idea of the westerly edge of our property. And all that green south and west of us? That's those same pine trees that, with 30 more years of growth, are now huge. Well, technically that ruffle-y looking area behind the green is mostly other trees because it's protected wetland but you get the idea...we're in the company of trees. It's no wonder we have deer and other assorted wildlife visiting us from time to time.
Standing in our backyard and looking south this is the scene that greets us. Let me correct that; this is the scene that used to greet us. For the last ten days or so we could hear the sound of saws and heavy equipment, and finally last week we could catch fleeting glimpses of what was happening. Change is in the wind or, more correctly, in the trees.
Eeeeyowww. It's the sound of a powerful saw cutting one of those big pines off at the ground. The loggers have this giant machine with big arms that grabs the tree trunk while the saw does its work. The trees are so thick we can't see that machine but we can see a treetop waving wildly back and forth before a loud kathump! signals it has crashed to the ground. I can't help but feel the tree was waving a final goodbye. Then there's more clanking and grinding as the fallen tree goes through some giant tunnel-like saw to strip off all the limbs before being loaded onto the log truck.
They were still cutting late in the day so I'm not sure what the final scene will look like but I can get an idea from this picture. It's taken looking straight south from the yard next door where they've already cut. Some of the trees you see in the foreground are on the golf course and then there some scrubby stuff behind that. We're not sure if the paper company will leave those few remaining pines or cut them down on another day. And way in the background are the tops of mature trees that haven't been cut. That Google Earth picture at the beginning shows only part of the forested land; it stretches for miles in both directions. International Paper is one of the world’s largest private owners of timberland, with millions of acres of forest holdings, but from what I could see from another part of the neighborhood, the cut section only goes for about a mile to the south. I'm anxious for a closer look but not while they're felling trees.
I'm not sure how I feel about this. The practical side of me knows the trees have done their job...grown tall quickly and are now ready for the chance to be lumber but more likely pulp for paper. That's how business works. And if history is any indication, soon seedlings will be taking their place. Even if they didn't, there's still a nice buffer between the edge of the golf course and what lies beyond. The woods are still there; they just aren't as deep.
On the other hand, they're trees. Living, growing, healthy trees. I have a hard time destroying healthy, growing things. Trim them back, yes; cut them down completely, not so much. And just think of all those great poems/sayings about trees. Like Trees are the earth's endless effort to speak to the listening heaven. Or If you would know strength and patience, welcome the company of trees. There's not much speaking or company when you chop the trees down.
I'm taking the "glass half full" view as we watch to see how much more open and airy the scene across the fairway becomes. One of the things I liked about the piece of land that became our home was that at night you could see the lights from the power plant at what has to be 20 miles away. Now I realize that a power plant is not usually a scenic vista but the plant disappeared in the horizon in the day. But at night, that's when the beauty appeared. The lights on the various towers and equipment sparkled like a tiny city skyline. I haven't seen those lights for years as the trees grew so tall they obscured them. Maybe they'll be back...at least until new trees grow tall enough to hide them once again.