Letter to my Son
Sunday, 2 March
|Forest of the Tarheel State|
Good Morning Jack…
As you know the natural order of North Carolina is to be a carpet of trees. This certainly helps to explain why the state has historically been a thriving center for furniture manufacturers – Thomasville, as a ‘for instance’. Like the textile industry in this region, though, most of the manufacturing has relocated overseas. Of course, the trees are still here. They crop up everywhere in neighborhood yards without the slightest encouragement. People constantly pull them from their gardens and mow them down in their lawns. Part of the cost of living here is having a local tree service barber the lush growth of your stately trees.
Of course, with all these trees about the realm comes an infestation of squirrels. I suppose infestation is the wrong word because they are not like rats that invade your home. They are known to nest in people’s attics but unless you keep a bowl of acorns sitting out they won’t be startling you if you happen to walk into the kitchen during the middle of the night. They mostly ignore us. They aren’t terribly fond of human ways. They do appreciate gardens, though. One year I planted several large, fat and healthy sunflower seeds only to have every one of them hunted down and devoured. They have a keen sense of smell as they rely on scent to uncover their own buried acorns, even beneath the winter’s snow.
Imagine a forest without woodpeckers. No, I can’t either. They’re not hard to track down with their red heads tapping in the trees and their curious looping flight. I guess undulate is a better word for it. The bird can’t fly in a straight and level fashion like most birds. It’s like the bottom falls out between wing beats and its flight constantly wants to sag towards the ground. What’s with that? Everything has a reason, right? Is it possible the bird just thinks flying the dipsy-do is more fun? You know birds have an amazingly small brain to be able to handle all the sophisticated acrobatics they do. I wouldn’t think there’d be room left over to slip in a pleasure center. Imagine a scientific paper being published that concludes woodpeckers fly the way they do just for the hell of it. They enjoy the giddy feeling it gives them in their stomach.
Occasionally deer wander through the yard. They are everywhere, as you might expect. I avoid driving most country roads at night because the local deer are still in the process of adjusting to the presence of cars. There’s a healthy population of black vultures here that feasts upon this fact.
We’ve got raccoon and fox here. A box turtle once wandered by. There’s also a few interesting snakes that hang out in leaves and snoop around barns. Owls hoot and hawks make their daily rounds. I could come up with a pretty good list of wildlife varmints seen around here if I really tried but I think I was talking about trees and I got off track. I missed my point.
What I wanted to say is that most people really love trees and forests. Why not? It’s all so green and lush and vibrant with life. Yet, there are a few people like me that find all this wooded growth a bit claustrophobic. Personally, I am a big fan of the unobstructed horizon. I love seeing where sky meets land twenty miles further down the road. Sure you can plunk a tree somewhere to break the monotony. They make for a great accent piece. But a few trees go a long way with me. That holds true for most any form of living thing. Allow me to contemplate the unique qualities of just one animal, isolated and very much alone. A lizard enjoying the morning on a rock will do. Maybe he’s in the midst of savoring the full-bodied flavor of a juicy cricket while he sunbaths. His head raised and cocked to one side he gives me his cold-blooded reptilian assessment. I’m not worth much. Just keep my distance and we’ll all be cool. That works for me, too. I count myself among the critters that probably need more personal space than we have a right to expect.