The photo at right was taken in late May of 1995. That’s my mom and cousin at the top of my hill here at Walden. They were planting the chestnut tree that Mom and Rod had given me for Christmas in 1994. I’d asked for trees that year because I had just bought the clearcut that would be Walden, and I thought it was my job to reforest it. It was my personal mission. I couldn’t imagine how a piece of land that had been so abused could regenerate and heal on its own.

Silly me.

Ten years later, I’d like to share some important lessons from the land:

1) Work rarely creates beauty. The most incredible, breathtaking things I’ve observed on this property have been things that have occurred almost in spite of me — things like the tiny blue flowers that come on the weeds in the run-off area of the spring (putting my garden to shame). Carpets of trillium and unfurling fern reaching for the sky. Or the ubiquitous choke cherry in bloom overshadowing Suzy’s $50 crab apple. Someone please remind me about this the next time I seem sucked in by work in Ottawa. Office work is totally meaningless in the grand scheme of things. Mull this over, then hug a tree.

2) Change is constant. Yesterday I spent two hours cutting down larch trees that are 8″ thick at the base. These are trees I planted 10 years ago. Now they will be posts in Jasper’s play fort. Tonight Suzy said something like, “I can’t believe you put that into the ground.”

3) Little things rock. I’m loving the soft moss that’s eating the fallen tree limbs. Each tiny sprout ends in a tiny star-like stem. Billions of them make spongy stepping through the trees, softer than the best mattress. Tonight I thought: I have to have sex here.

Walking to the MacPhees last night, I took a deep breath and said, “Isn’t the air fantastic?” Jasper sucked in a lung-full and said, “Yeah, Dad, but that smells like cow poop to me.” Sure enough, a few feet away was a field of cow patties. Tonight as we walked home we could see Mercury setting in the west, and Jupiter high overhead.

This afternoon I pushed my way to the top of my hill. I managed to find Mom’s chestnut tree, and trimmed away branches from two pine, a birch, and a clump of maple that had all grown up around and had overcome the poor tree. Then I got lost in my own woods for the first time ever.

More soon. I want to get back to just sitting. There’s a half bag of Bits N Bites I need to eat.

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