For someone who loves trees as much as I do, I sure spend a lot of time walking logging roads. Partly it’s because I hike with crotchety dogs who like room to run. Partly it’s access, given that there are an awful lot of logging roads in these parts.
More than that, though, I’m drawn to the places in between those we’ve defined as “human” and those that remain “wild.” At their best, these ecotonal zones are rich in species busily engaged in forest succession, offering a glimpse into a rich and oddly comforting world that exists despite us. At their worst, well, at their worst they’re shattered moonscapes in which it seems that nothing living will ever again thrive.
I return to these areas over and over because, for me, they frame the puzzle of our relationship to the natural world in the twenty-first century. We need to feel the beauty of national parks and wilderness areas, those places where the web of life is–at least superficially–so strong as to resist the weight of our footprints and where we ourselves are small and insignificant. But we also need to see those areas that show us what our living has done to the earth, so that we are reminded that living takes life.
And to remember we aren’t alone.