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Of Death and the Beetles

Take a drive into the forested mountains anywhere in the West from New Mexico to British Columbia and you will see a curious sight; forests of evergreens that are no longer uniformly green.  Instead, they are shot through with huge swaths of gray-brown.

What you are seeing is the result of the massive infestation of bark beetles; insects that bore into the bark of the trees and lay their eggs.  The larva that hatch eventually kill the tree – especially if it is stressed by overcrowding (due to fire suppression) and drought (due to climate change).

The scope of the situation is very sobering.  In the hardest hit portions of Wyoming, Colorado, and New Mexico you can drive for miles without seeing any sign that the forest is alive.  That is certainly the impression you will get if you only view the devastation from the comfort of your car.

However, if you park and head down the trails into the forest you will see something different.  Here and there among the dead trunks and decaying snags are fields of young pines and firs pushing up into the light.

Seeing that testament to life’s tenacity inspired me to write the following few words.

Of Death and the Beetles

Climb the steep, moist, valley trail to
flowery meadows, where snowy peaks
push clouds aside to split the sky,
and elk and moose graze peacefully.

Across the mountainsides is ranged
an infinity of death, bare and tangled
trees like jackstraws in a child’s hand
waiting for the winds to drop them.

The necropolis of bark and wood
bears witness to a holocaust;
death’s legions rattling and moaning
where once they swayed and sighed.

So many dead, it seems
too much cellulose even for
the patient ants and fungi
to tear and chew back into soil.

Yet wild gardens bloom there
and infant trees still sprout
reaching toward the light,
among the stricken trunks

Not mourning for what was
but growing from what is


2 Responses

  1. Just lovely. It is wonderful to observe nature’s tenacity. I like to think she will conquer all our foolishness in the end.

    • That is true. We are her and she is us and so, she will prevail long after we are gone the way of the trilobite and the plesiosaur

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