Subtly, the pale sunrise spans across the sky, exploding into all the colors of the rainbow.
The hues that seem to be simultaneously absorbed by the pond and bounced of its glassy frame demonstrate the interconnectedness of nature. The water and sunlight reinforce each other.
At 30 degrees, the ground is crunchy with frost that somehow seeps into my shoes. The trail I’m hiking deep in Pennsylvania’s Laurel Highlands is practically frozen, but life along this path is blazing. Skunk cabbage and trout lilies are sprouting, sparrows and geese are squawking, and a woodpecker is carving his favorite tree. Nature isn’t deterred by the cold and I won’t be either. So I crunch on beside the brook, stopping to listen to its rippling.
I sit on a log by a wooden plaque that reads, “Camp Vomit” where evidently the kid’s at summer camp get initiated to the wilderness. I listen as the bulldozers and chainsaws on the other side of the park claim the ash trees before the destructive beetle can. I sit wondering, if the trees could choose, which sort of death they’d prefer — the massacre by man or the blight by the beetle.
I look up in time to catch a blue jay dance across the utility lines, and I’m reminded that ideally man’s hi-tech needs coincide with nature. After all, we can have birds and electric, ponds and water filters, but as I listen to a tree crashing at the mercy of a bulldozer, I feel somehow responsible for its demise. Humans, me included, may be more destructive than the enemies we attempt to thwart.
Our efforts to prevent conditions we deem dangerous to our species are often complicated, and I know I don’t understand all the details. I do know I don’t want a rotted tree to fall on my head, but rather than cut them down with no chance of survival, maybe we should consider that the beetle threat may pass without our intervention like the wildfires purge the landscape.
I realize that trees must be cut to build roads, and make paper that’s not recycled, but I feel it’s my duty as a connoisseur of the digital way of life, to question the practices that are possibly more rooted in fear, ignorance or greed than actual need.
For instance, close to my home in Ohio, fracking is releasing nitrates into the water and cracking the plates in the earth, and in West Virginia, mountain tops are being removed to secure coal.
I know that without darkness, there would never be a sunrise for me to enjoy — not in this world of duality, anyway. In order to revel in the luxuries of this modern day, compromises must be made. Nature must adapt to mankind as we struggle to find methods that enhance our lives without destroying the natural order of things — methods that don’t chop down the very trees that offer us life-giving oxygen.
I aim my phone camera toward the majestic scene of nature birthing all around me, grateful for the opportunity to capture the image with my cellular device — to take home a taste of this experience in more than just my mind where pictures fade.
As another tree snaps and pounds its earthy grave, I imagine it spewing sap like vomit onto the mossy ground, trolling over pine cones and rocks.
Suddenly, I feel nauseous, too.
Michele Zirkle Marcum is a native of Meigs County and an author. Her column appears each Tuesday.