Ahlin: That elusive sense of wellbeing
Ahlin writes, "Trees have lost—or fast are losing—leaves (and glory!) as their skeletons emerge. Pumpkin colored tamaracks, unnoticed earlier this autumn in groves with maple, oak, and ash, suddenly are great plumes of pride. Look at us, they seem to say, we’re the only deciduous conifer in your boreal forests."
It’s midday when I leave for the lake. If I’m less hurried than usual, it isn’t intentional. In fact, I’m several miles down the road before it occurs to me there’s something different about the day, something I can’t put my finger on.
Oh, well, sooner or later it will come to me. I’ve reached the age when having thoughts on the “tip of my tongue” is a way of life. Besides, the scenery demands my attention, those bittersweet landscapes of late fall, starting with cumulus clouds, which might look like cotton candy if they weren’t the color of steel. The sun doesn’t seem to know what to do with them. They may move in billowy, unsubstantial-looking shapes, but that doesn’t mean the sun is able to break through. And oddly, the cloud-ceilinged sky, colored as it is in shades of smoke, accentuates the fading hues of autumn: stubbled fields, which would look washed out in sunshine, look richly earthy, almost buttery beneath the amorphous canopy; sumac is burgundy rather than flame-red, and fall-seeded fields are deep green, this year’s promise for next year’s growing season.
Trees have lost—or fast are losing—leaves (and glory!) as their skeletons emerge. Pumpkin colored tamaracks, unnoticed earlier this autumn in groves with maple, oak, and ash, suddenly are great plumes of pride. Look at us, they seem to say, we’re the only deciduous conifer in your boreal forests. Cattails ring the slate-colored water of sloughs, foliage yellowing while their velvety hotdog heads rupture, sending puffy seeds aloft on the breeze.
A few years ago, "Smithsonian" magazine ran an article, “Do Trees Talk to Each Other?” Writer Richard Grant centered the article on a book by a German forester named Peter Wolleben, a book titled, “The Hidden Life of Trees, What They Feel, How They Communicate.”
As Grant put it, “Trees are far more alert, social, sophisticated—and even intelligent—than we thought.” The notion comes as no surprise to me. Even if we don’t ascribe consciousness and intent to nature’s flora, we live in its rhythm. Certainly, I’ve long considered trees my good old friends. When Dutch elm disease marched down our street, we tried to save our elms by first having them injected with medicine, and finally, as a last resort, taking out a section of sidewalk and cutting through webs of roots to interrupt the destructive beetles’ underground roadway. When twin spruce trees planted in 1929 in our yard—both growing to a hundred feet—were uprooted with their intertwined massive root balls in the Memorial Day storm of 2011, I wept. To me they were an old married couple—dear to me and my family—who couldn’t live without one another.
Driving along, the road a ribbon through nature’s tapestry and the brooding sky enveloping the world in late autumn’s embrace, the thought that evaded me earlier surfaces: Wellbeing. Unexpectedly, I’m filled with that elusive (frustratingly elusive?) sense of wellbeing.
And it’s good.
Ahlin lives in Fargo and is a frequent contributor to The Forum's opinion pages. Email firstname.lastname@example.org
This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Forum's editorial board nor Forum ownership.