Woodland Appreciation

Colby B. Rucker

      There are many compelling reasons why we should protect our small woodlands, good practical reasons: buffers and scenery, aquifer recharge and water quality, air quality and noise reduction, rare plant and animal habitat, and an alternative to development.  All those are reasons enough, but there is something more: reasons beyond reasoning, and values beyond value.

      In these eastern woodlands there is something special, yet hidden to most.  True, there are no sequoias, no rainbow-girded cataracts, no grizzly bears or ancient bristlecones; but these are differences of quantity, not substance.  Nature, even the smallest bit of it, provides a broad window, linking us to the tarn and fen, and beck and lea of our far yesterdays, providing truth and beauty for today, and promising a bit of today in a tomorrow beyond our ken.

      Life is but the pursuit of knowledge.  Through art, music, literature and poetry we extend the limits of our sensitivity and understanding, but these are but imitations of nature.  In the study and contemplation of nature itself we are drawn further, toward a sublime unity both real and elusive. 

       Through our access to nature we may move through progressive levels of understanding.  In the defense of the smallest creature is the salvation of the whole, for in preservation we exhibit the highest attributes of our existence, being at one with the theme of creation.  Conversely, whatever our wealth, or office, in the unnecessary destruction of one tree we consign ourselves to the Stone Age of intellectual progress.

       Though we strive to understand nature, we cannot judge nature; ultimately, it is nature that judges each of us.  That we understand all the intricacies of our eastern forests is not essential.  What is essential is that each of us respects these areas, and protects them.  If we fail, we shall have turned our backs on true progress, and shall have permanently denied a dimension of truth and enlightenment to all who may follow.