Seven years ago I moved out to an acreage that has it’s own mini-forest on it. Since moving there, I’ve spent many hours wandering through the woods, trying to understand the land and the things that live there. When I first began wandering, there were very few trails to be found, and I’d often follow deer tracks or crash blindly through the brush in my boots or snow shoes.
One year I decided to mark the oak trees in order to get my bearings. I then used these oaks to plan my resting spots and devised a trail system around them. The Bur Oak is a grand tree – able to survive drought and fire, resilent to disease and insects, and a vital food source for bear, deer, and many other birds and animals.
Upon beginning my trail-making I soon discovered a spot deep in the bush that was ripe with oaks but surrounded by poplar. The one thing oaks need to survive and thrive is sunlight. I spent the next 3 years clearing this area to give the oaks some space to grow, and to give me a base in the middle of the forest to call home. This place is now known as Hawk’s Watch, as there’s a red-tailed hawk’s nest that sits high in an old poplar just outside the clearing. Every spring I go out to this spot to watch a red-tailed hawk return (is it the same one?) soaring high in the air as it calls out to find a mate.
This past Sunday I wandered out to Hawk’s Watch and found a solitary Oak tree still holding all its leaves. Sheltered from the winds, waiting out time.
The selfishly sad thing is that Oaks age much more slowly than us. Since oaks can live well over a century, an acorn planted tomorrow may remain “ordinary” looking after 30 years of growth. I think that’s why the forest is very grounding to me, as I can look around and see the continuation of time and growth that began before I was born and which will continue after I’m gone.
I hope that one day I will be a Summer Ghost
Lingering like the leaves on a Winter Tree
Hanging on beyond my Time
Enjoying one more day beneath the Sun