The affected area had a network of trails that we frequently walked with the dogs. They also were used by horseback riders -- there was even a horse jump at the bottom of a hill. Depending on how much time we had, we could choose between several loops of trails, from walking about 2 miles total, to more like 5 -- this last choice lead to the horse farm where the riders came from.
Every time I've gone has been joyous -- peaceful and engaging. Though the height of tick season often kept me at bay (after a few yucky times, picking ticks off us every few feet), when they were not copious, I relished the chance to shake off my computer world and get back to where I belong, in the woods.
I had not the heart to go out and see the damage until yesterday. I needed to see just how bad and big it was. They're still cutting today, so I will have to return to see the full aftermath. After yesterday, I still don't know the manner in which I need to return. The following is an account of yesterday's exploration. Please excuse the rawness of the writing and the lack of photos.
Me and our two greyhounds left after most of the noise had ended -- around 5:30. Right away, the dogs displayed an unwillingness to go -- which would be unheard of in normal circumstances. They knew we were going to see bad/scary things, but we continued on the trail through the woods on our side of the creek. I kept having to urge Charlie, our eldest and most sensitive one to keep moving, sometimes I had to shove at his haunches. I told them "we have to see how bad it is," this seemed to make them a little more co-operative.
The damage became visible as we were descending the hill toward the creek. Between the thick growth of trees in the foreground, I saw earth shades and the criss-crossed browns of fallen trees across the valley. The sight of it was a painful jolt. As we continued toward the creek on the untamed path, the view became more clear -- they had felled/taken away trees very close to the other side of the creek. I was surprised, because that ground was also rugged.
By the time we stood creekside, the scope of the damage was in our faces. The entire woods that had covered many acres of hills on the other side had been knocked down and stripped away. We clamored over the rocks and through the water, up the rugged bank. Then we mowed our way through the thick grass/wildflowers on the other side and on to the trail that runs along the creek. Literally 20 feet from the trail lay the damage boundary. I was hit by the sheer violence of it -- not only the deed, but mere the sight of it felt like a violation of huge proportions. That people would willingly do this was incomprehensible. It made me gasp.
Numbly, we forged on. I wanted to see how much of the trail remained. We took a left -- where the trail had climbed uphill and into two loops among the vibrant pines. We had barely gotten uphill when we were blocked by fallen trees on the margin of destruction. That they hadn't attempted to leave the trail angered me even more. Turning around, we headed back along the creek some ways. I was hit by the scent of honey suckle. The incongruity made my tears start. Birds were singing, flowers were out on my right, but to my left was man-made desolation.
As we threaded our way through high grass, I found that my usual concerns about ticks or tearing my naked legs on thorns had gone. I marched through in my crocks, with nary a scratch, all the same. I was on a mission. The scent of fresh cut pine -- the sap/blood of trees -- the freshly disturbed earth only heightened my crying.
As the creek turned, we found that they had not taken the tree with the old platform nailed into it. I'd never climbed it because I've always had the dogs and don't want to let them off leash -- greyhounds are too fast -- they can disappear, chasing wildlife. Now the view from the platform can only be one of destruction. Finally, the dogs accepted their plight and stopped lagging, they began to sniff and pee more. A squirrel chirped and bounced its tail on a tree on the fringe of the ruin -- this was like a lance in my gut. Who knows whether that squirrel was mourning its lost home and family.
Where the trail had turned uphill and where that horse jump used to be, had become the access road for the huge vehicles. To my dismay, there were a couple of men on the rim of the destroyed hill -- shouting directions to each other from the cabs of monstrous trucks. One of them saw me. I considered going up to him and blasting him with hysterical invective, but didn't see anything positive coming of that.
I decided to follow the road, which was laid with wooden pallets across the shallow creek and away from the wreckage. This used to be a much neglected lane that lead to a small house and private land. Now, the house was gone.
We wended on, past an old trailer, then through a wire-fenced pasture containing some stunning horses. It felt surreal to have come out of such a catastrophe and then admire these creatures. A couple of them came to check us out. Our dogs always seem to stir more-than-average curiosity in farm animals because they're so tall and skinny.
I got the impression that the horses were also disturbed by the activity -- the loud, stinky trucks passing by daily is stressful, but the strongest impression was that they were consoling me. The wisdom and kindness of their eyes, their strength and patience just said it. I apologized to them and said that no all people destroy things.
I continued down the road a bit more, still shaken after all I'd seen. We approached another pasture -- this one had an electrical wire along the top. I soon saw why -- we were regarded by a solid black, fiery stallion. His ears were perked at the sight of us and he was stomping his front hoof and snorting. It was the Black Stallion -- the Walter Farley tale horse of my dreams! He looked Arabian, with a compact, muscular body, small, dished head, kingly bearing. He was too nervous to come close enough to be touched, but pranced and stomped and flared about as we got closer. We neared the sight of the main barn, it adjoined the property of the horse farm that we'd visited before. They had extended their holdings, in a sense.
We turned around at the sight of parked cars and a girl going out on horseback toward the practice ring. As we headed back, a logging truck trundled up the road toward the ruined ground. I glowered at the driver. The top of the truck pushed and snapped back some tree branches. This made the Black Stallion, who had followed us along the fence at some distance, shy, spin around and gallop mightily in the other direction -- his tail fanned out like a flag behind him -- Arabian style.
The conflicting emotions of my experience had reached a limit. I felt dull and sad as we went back home. I entertained the hope that maybe the farm people owned the woods and were planning to expand their horse land -- that could be something good to come out of the destruction, but not sustainable.
Dark storm clouds were heading our way, but I didn't hurry. The whole scene could use a cleansing, I thought. Getting to the creek again, I allowed the dogs to revel in the water -- Oliver, our perky brindle always lays down in water when he's hot, while Charlie stands there, too worried about his footing to really relax.
We proceeded back up the hill, Charlie lead the way with enthusiasm -- he's always been a great trail guide, which was why having to shove him along was such a change. As we neared the top of our wooded hill, heavy rain began to fall. I was glad of it. By the time we returned home, it was almost dark. The front of my shirt was soaked and my hair looked like hell. I toweled off the dogs, gave them treats, then took a hot shower and had dinner -- with wine.
I still don't know how to react to what's happening, aside from monitoring it. The thought that it's still going on makes my heart sink. I'm going to do something Shamanic -- perhaps a special fire, perhaps opening a Huaca (an energetic vortex which brings things back into balance), perhaps something about mourning; new beginnings; forgiveness. We'll see. Right now, I depend on my trusty i-pod to play music over the destruction and I pray it will end.