Ida’s Long Tail

Reflections From a Recent Visitor:

Today I shared the trails with the sturdy green of sated understory. The movement of mud kicked by small frogs leaping from where they were flattened by the torrent. Countless salamanders, pseudotriton ruber, stunned or panting in displacement. The small debris and combed grass where Ida’s long tail dragged the woods. The sound of rushing water. My imagination rises along the banks of streams where evidence shows the total inundation of little valleys and fluvial cuts. Folded turf, the tension of exposed roots, tight grip, tumbled stones and boulders. These trails were raging rivers and waterfalls.

In our cities and towns, we are measuring the damage and tallying the toll. There is tragedy where we take the earth’s behavior for granted. I gravitate toward trails that display perpetual change, generally crossing peaks and the wet sides of these mountains, where wind and water drag and drain. There is no measure of damage here, only change, but no change, either, only a perception of it. In the forest, changing is living.

In the Mountains and Rivers Sutra, the Zen Master Dogen said “At this moment, you cannot doubt the mountains’ walking.” From Split Rock, I see that Sutherland Pond is swollen but still. On this sunny day, a small plane’s engine spills into the valley where the trees reveal no effort and the hills reveal no pace. But the buzz and whistling of flying things, a branch cracking far behind me, the whirring and clicks of arthropods, the path of an ant on the stone guide me gently back to a world in the trees where changing is living, and this is my souvenir.

Please accept this note of thanks for the careful preservation of this forest.

Lee Harrison
Newburgh, NY