(one of author’s paths… including the one that opens to the little field)
I have always loved trees and as a child often found refuge in the fragrant branches of old maples and oaks. Does the reader know that every kind of tree has a scent of its own? My grandmother’s sweetly perfumed golden apple tree attracted the deer on moonlit nights as my little brother and I watched with rapt attention when the bucks moved in to feed while we counted the points on each rack of deer antlers…
Our first tree houses were constructed high up in the uppermost branches of the white pines that swayed precariously when the wind blew too hard. These old trees also “whispered” when their needles touched and I imagined then that they were speaking in tongues that I could decipher with ease. The scent of pine pitch is a fragrance I cherish to this day. Many of these magnificent White pines were scattered around the 50 acre pre-Revolutionary farm that belonged to my grandparents, and like the 200- 300 year old sugar maples that ringed the field and shaded the house in summer, I loved those old trees but took them for granted.
By mid- life I no longer took any tree for granted. Maine logging was devastating the trees around me. I became a fierce tree advocate writing articles to address destructive logging practices and to educate the public in the hope that these practices would help save Maine trees… all this writing occurred in between the spaces of teaching at the university level, accruing further degrees, and counseling.
When I first purchased ‘my’ land in western Maine thirty – five years ago, the mixed conifer and deciduous forest had been cut just a few years before and many saplings were slowly regenerating. An open field stretched down into the valley to meet one of the three brooks that bordered the property. This area was also protected by the forest. A clear spring bubbled up in a nearby copse of trees.
I promised the trees then, that as long as I lived on the land this forest would remain untouched, and that I would allow nature to take the lead. A commitment I kept.
Nature chose to create a white pine forest that sprung up as if by magic populating the old field with pine seedlings. White pines grow fast when they are young, and soon I was creating a complex web of pathways so that I could continue to walk and snowshoe as the forest grew and flourished. As the pines arced over my head emerald mosses covered the ground beneath my feet. My beloved Black bears began to use these paths so regularly that a thin line appeared in the center of the well-shaded and protected trails.
Even on the hottest summer days I continue to meander through the pines that keep the ground moist and fragrant. One path borders one of the brooks, another opens into the remaining field, a small area bordered by wild apple trees, chokecherries, wild cherries, beaked hazelnut, and hobble bush. This protected open place has a northeastern exposure that allows me to converse with the stars and a rising full moon. In the winter the mountain catches fire as alpine glow spreads her wings across the horizon.
During the days of spring and summer the heart shaped leaves of white violets with their striped lavender tongues, masses of lupine, lemon lilies, deep blue iris, milkweed balls, goldenrod, and finally deep blue fall asters provide me with continuous blooming until once again I mow the field so that the deer and rabbits can graze until snow blankets the wheat colored ground. Around my log cabin white pines provide mothers with “bear trees” and a myriad of fruit trees and maples provide deep summer shade, the latter creating the most beautiful autumn colors – gold and crimson leaves that are a sight to behold.
My life is inextricably woven into the weft and warp of the trees around my house (and trees in general – here in New Mexico where I am currently spending the winter it is the cottonwoods that I fiercely advocate for), and I am so grateful to nature who creates tree sanctuaries for me and for all the animals and birds that so depend upon them for life.
Just a few days ago I saw a video on You Tube about bear biologist Dr. Lynn Rogers who is a friend and also a mentor. In the video we learn that Lynn has a white pine (located in Mohawk State Forest in Massachusetts) that has been named after him. This tree has a girth of 11 plus feet and is a hundred feet tall.
Back in the nineties Lynn formed the White Pine Society to save the remaining 2 percent of the white pines in Minnesota. He wrote a bill that did not pass but helped to raise public awareness about the relationship between Black bears and white pines. Female mother bears gravitate towards these trees for a number of reasons. They provide an open area free of snow early in the spring, and with their rough bark are ideal trees for cubs to climb to escape predators, and to hone their climbing skills.
The Wilderness and Parks Coalition honored Lynn for “crusading to preserve and regenerate Minnesota’s depleted white pine forests.” At the same time the Eastern Native Tree Society named the giant pine (mentioned previously) after him.
It is heartening to know that during this time of earth devastation, climate change, and general disregard for nature that men like Lynn and women like me advocated for and continue to advocate for those trees and creatures whose voices have been stilled by corporate greed and indifference.