Underneath, I know she rages. The Mighty Rio. Uncontained by elements and as strong as tide, she flows.
Without concern to her, we are on top, dragging logs, back and forth by snowmobile, snowshoes, culling dead trees, wondering if any will remain. Looks like we might be working here a while.
We’re deep in dead wood. Dang it, you can’t even find an undisturbed aspen grove around these parts without a great percentage of death.
But the spruce, the once blue spruce. That is what I see. Red.
I don’t know the numbers. You can look them up yourself. All I know is we’ve been watching the beetles kill mountain after mountain year after year. Like a wave. Starting at the top and spilling down. Then onto the next. And going back to finish off the stragglers.
Please don’t tell me to cheer up. I’ll be just as likely to tell you to wake up. Open up your eyes. Get out here and see for yourself.
It’s quite ruthless. Not what I have seen in other parts. I read we’re not the only ones, but right now, we got it bad. And there’s no end in sight. I just came back from a snowshoe on this side of the river and saw the tell tale signs. Again. It’s making its way down Pole Mountain and hitting the trees behind us. Pin holes, sap and slipping bark. Will they be red by summer?
I’m not hiding the truth or sugar coating this to find the pretty parts. I’m telling it like it is. Don’t read it if you don’t want to know what’s happening in this part of Colorado, here in the Rio Grande National Forest, here where the Weminuche Wilderness borders our land. It’s easy to avoid. There’s not much out there on the subject. I’ll share with you what little I’ve found. Though some of it is nonsense, and the rest, well, you probably don’t want to know.
Remember the year the deer and elk were trapped by the sudden snow? Remember how many of us had broken hearts watching our wildlife starve to death? We started to feed, until finally the Department of Wildlife was tired of being the bad guy telling us it was “natural” as if that would make it all OK and they got in on the action too and tried to help by distributing feed. Sometimes sticking with your heart, doing something rather than nothing, helps. It didn’t save most of the deer. I remember driving to Gunnison that spring and seeing a carcass rotting on every hill, far too many for the coyote and crows to finish off.
But do nothing? Easy to do if you leave. Go home. Don’t see. But if this is your home? You would do something too.
For those daring to dive into the depths, dig in, cut through to the dark blue wood.
Bundle up ‘cause the sun don’t shine down there where we’re working, the sugar snow is deep and loose, and the wind still blows.
There, I’ll show you what I see.
Nature’s foul infanticide. As small as we see they can grow, we see they can be killed by beetles. It only takes a few pinholes.
Mistletoe on most every tree. Odd. I’m not going to turn into a biologist and claim to have the facts but sometimes, many times, I wish I knew more. Why are these parasites thriving as the tree puts out their last sap, and then goes down with its sinking ship shortly after?
Last night two owls were talking back and forth in the tall green trees behind my cabin. What are the chances of those trees being green this time next year?
A chickadee lights above me on a branch of healthy aspen as I’m fiddling with my camera. I talk to it. It chirps back. We discuss what will become of all of this. We agree (I think) we will adapt.
Next tree over is a big old spruce. One of the elder trees. At the base is a pile of loose bark chipped by the woodpecker seeking out the larva already within. Farewell for the old wise ones.
Knowledge. How do we find answers? I would have thought quoting science would give me backing. Instead, it seems, if I mention “climate change” or “global warming” I become political. No thanks.
I grew up in lefty liberal world; my husband in a righteous right wing one. We chose to sit back, watch, and think for ourselves. What a concept. What I see is this. People accept politics as they do religion, with just as much blind faith, but lacking a god or the golden rule.
I’m for thinking, observing, making up my own mind. I’m not going to try to convince you to believe what I believe. Beliefs are personal. You can (and should) make up your own mind, be smart enough to think for yourself, change your mind when you learn and grow (assuming, that is, you do…), and then… keep it to yourself. Those with the loudest voices tend to have the least to say. One more reason to stay up here on the mountain and keep away from town. I never was much of a conversationalist.
So this isn’t about science, data, or personal beliefs. This is about cold hard facts. OK? What I see before me. That’s it. Maybe you see something different. Like a paved street or sidewalk or another concrete building or pretty suburb street with groomed lawns and a shiny new SUV in every driveway. Fine. Whatever.
Me, I see trees. Dead standing. Hillsides of them. Big hillsides. Entire mountains you can find on the map with names like Ute Ridge and Simpson, Pole and Finger Mesa.
Come stand before my kitchen window and look outside with me now.
Tell me what you see. Not what you want to see. Not what you are told to believe.
I don’t care about who or what you believe in. I care about what you see.