The naked forest reveals her form, sculpted by ancient glaciation,
Granite ridge, steep slope and bog too poor for cultivation.
Gnarled roots of mighty pines, toppled by summer thunder,
Reach skywards clutching still in vain their granite anchors,
Their broken ribs lie stark along their rotting spines,
Guarded by buckthorn, wreathed in sour grape vines.
A carpet once emblazed with hues of beech and maple leaves,
Perfume laden with the musk of Fall upon a rustling breeze,
Now lies down-trodden, blackened, soiled;
With remnant weeds bent low in final toil to sow their seed,
By scavenging rodent, chickadee or clasping burr on fur.
The beaver dam is rimed with floes,
Its dark pond edged with gnawn aspen boughs.
The shallowed stream chills to icebound stillness;
Marsh pools creak and crack a passing warning
Mud is cast to iron corrugation.
A blight of metal, rubber, foam mushrooms on the forest floor,
Debris of man’s insatiable demand for more,
Plastic baggies ripen on the brush, scoop-filled but not disposed,
All soon to lie beneath a white veneer unseen,
And re-emerge as toxic leachate to the stream.
Biting sleet is driven by a relentless, chilling wind
Trees groan and chafe as limbs are pruned.
Wounds cauterise; the weak and aged are culled.
Woodpeckers drum out the grub and crows clean carrion,
Distant guns hunt duck and goose and deer, no longer hidden.
Scattered on the forest floor lie tales of pioneering lives,
Broken fence rails, rusting wire, rotten stumps and stacked rock piles.
Sweat and toil that was in vain against infertile soil and cold;
They left, perhaps to move out West to harvest Prairie gold,
The forest overgrew all trace; their story left untold.
The pines and firs stand sentinel over this frigid land,
Their green reminds that deep within renewal is at hand.
But though they watch, they cannot defend against the yuletide axe,
To decorate the home with tree and bough so soon to lose their sheen,
Oh hasten Winter, load your healing drifts upon this tired and melancholy scene.
Bryan D. Cook Late November 2010
Context for Forest before Snow
Walking my dogs in late November and early December 2010 in the Mystery Park and woodland along the Ottawa River in Orleans, Ontario, I felt that Fall was over and we were in a limbo before the true Winter season. The forest had so many melancholy overtones deserving of reflection.
Bryan D. Cook 9 December 2010