Almost a year and a half on the property, and just about exactly a year since I hollered ‘do overs!’ on the original Mitigation Plan, and I am still finding the new about my patch
of woods, wetland, and clearing. Whether the thrill of believed-to-be-extinct wildlife, the serenity of a snow dusted pool of wetland, or a mundane-yet-vivid fungus, there is hardly a day that I don’t find something I have never seen or noticed before.
This weekend, I stole a few hours to continue post-storm cleanup around the clearing, marveling at my forest’s ability to manufacture windfall branches. From the amounts on the ground it is a mystery that there are any left on the trees. The Pacific Northwest is enjoying what I call ‘False Spring,’ a regular February phenomenon of unseasonably beautiful weather. Sometimes just a day or two, right now it has lasted a week and is forecast for several more days. It is caused, I think, by an unusually stable mass of high pressure and may be influenced by the keen and wail of thousands of Seasonal Affective Disorder sufferers; it will likely come to an end when some benighted soul says, ‘Wow, we’ve had sunshine for a few days in February. I think I’ll wash my car!’
The wetland margin has suffered this winter from wind, snow, and ice, and there are a number of broken trees, canes of salmonberry forced down under their weight, and years, perhaps decades of accumulated windfall branches and debris. As I cleared away forest litter I exposed a salal covered log and just behind it a lovely stump wreathed in salal as well. As I lifted away two newly fallen trees and a tangle of ancient sodden branches, the stump revealed itself, like a sculpted wooden vase filled with greenery: an ikebana of forest and bog, framed by the wetland view, now in the spotlight of silvery midwinter sun.
Sometimes I will come across a boulder poking out of the constant ebb and eddy of forest duff, one that I can lift and will nicely dress and texture the clearing; other times I press through woodland scrub to enter an arched cathedral of vine maple and happen upon a ‘mother field’ of moss I had not previously encountered. These are the times I feel like Henry Morton Stanley, or even better: my own self as a boy, Tarzan-ing about my yard, lost in the irrepressible joy of just being. There is no expressing this Indiana Jones feeling when I come indoors: “I found a rock” sounds like only that and no more in a world composed of mostly rock and moss. “I cleared that area down by the wetland,” I said, as I shed sweaty camouflage and fleece. “Oh. Look at that stump! It’s beautiful!” my wife replied. Yes. Exactly.