“I recently turned 50, which is young for a tree, mid-age for an elephant and ancient for a quarter miler. whose son now says, “Dad I can’t the quarter with you anymore unless I bring a book.” Anonymous
It seems like every day this April, we witness new signs of growth with the profusion of flowers, birds from the south, and my shaggy lawn asking for a trim. Everything is bursting and emerging. In spring, the world is young and ready to run.
In our American culture, and increasingly others, it is the young who receive the focus, the idolatry, and the pop culture buzz. Whether it is teen heart throbs, sports phenoms, or fashion models, the youth have all the attention.
The natural world, despite April’s explosive moment, has a different take. When a fire roars through a landscape, or people simplify a natural system through clear-cut logging, those areas become less stable and fragile. Landscapes experiencing disturbance are subject to erosion, the introduction of non-native weeds, and if planted in a monoculture, widespread disease. Not much lives in a moonscape.
The most stable of nature’s habitats are old places. They are more resilent because they are diverse…featuring a wide variety of species, niches, possibilities. An ancient forest displays different layers of canopy, and within their vertical stratification, are found an array of birds. Ancient forests contain the full equivalent of large trees, snags or dead trees, large logs, deep rich soil, and openings. It takes awhile for the oak tree to become old enought to develop what is known as “cavities,” holes that attract animals in search of a home. Wearing an armor of thick bark, old trees have a much better chance of surviving fire, insect attacks, and disease.
Despite our 200 year history of transforming old natural haunts into youth Meccas of malls, electronic game stores, and fast food outlets, there remains some hope for our society keeping in touch wtih old places. While I don’t know anyone who hikes or recreates in logged over lands, by the millons we still seek out primeval forests, places like the Grand Canyon displaying pre-historic rock vistas, and time-rich Native American treasures like Mesa Verde and Canyon de Chelly. And we have at least one elder to venerate…come Christmas, we will once again see and hear the wisdom of Yoda, who I learned, only became a Jedi Master at 96. ~