I like to sit by the woodstove in the evening and lose myself in deep thought. The only problem is, lately, when I sit by the warm fire after a long busy day, I soon find myself in deep sleep instead.
Before I dozed off yet again Sunday night, I was planning on contemplating something I’ve been thinking about for the past few days. The days have been getting longer since the winter solstice, but an event I celebrate with similar glee is the day when the “normal minimum temperature” graph in the Boston Globe bottoms-out and starts to tick upwards. This happened last week when we spent a few days with a normal low of 21 degrees (F) and finally clicked up to 22 degrees. Spring is on the way! Now, every snowstorm and cold snap can be faced more bravely knowing that warmer weather is surely on the way. (An average number on a graph doesn’t mean we can’t still plunge into the teens and single digits now and then, just that it’s less likely.)
Friday morning when I was out running my errands, I noticed that the thermometer in the car read 22 degrees. It registered in my mind that this happened to be the normal low temperature for that date, and it was cold. (I trust my
It wasn’t that long ago that most of the Northeast was denuded of forest cover by farming, grazing, fuelwood cutting and charcoal making. Most of the farmers have long since moved west where the soils are better suited to agriculture. We no longer need charcoal and most of our wood fires today are more recreational than life-sustaining. As a result, the forest has grown back, but I tried to imagine what the woods would look like if we still had to get our energy for cooking and heat from trees. Life would be very different and our forests would be unrecognizable.
That night, I was watching a local weekly TV talk show about the news media. They were discussing how the daily newspaper is on the verge of disappearing, thanks largely to readers and advertisers moving to the web. I wondered what would happen to our northern forests if there was no longer a demand for all the pulpwood that goes into the manufacture of newsprint. I wondered if yet another technology-driven cultural shift was about to have a major impact on our forest landscape. I wondered how long it would be before I’d have to get my temperature charts online.
Sunday afternoon, I was leading a group around the Moose Hill Farm loop trail. On such hikes, I always pause to ask the young people why on Earth anyone would bother to build all those stone walls in the middle of the woods. After a few lame jokes about how much the colonists could achieve because they weren’t distracted by TVs and computers, I tried to get them to visualize what the rolling hills may have looked like with open fields and rocky walls as far as the eye could see.
I like to sit by a wood fire in the evening. I enjoy my stroll down the driveway to fetch the morning paper. When I’m sitting in the woods, I like to watch a chipmunk sitting on an old stone wall as he works on a fat acorn. The changing needs and desires of our society may spawn trends that sweep across the face of our forests, but the forests have always been there for us. The next time I fall asleep by the fire, I hope I dream of a future where forests continue to thrive and people value them for all the blessings they provide.