Standing in the Deep Woods After a Long Satisfactory Rain

Standing in deep woods after a long satisfactory rain, I can feel the trees breathe and expand. I am being quiet not to disturb the young bunny grazing near my feet. Red-bellied woodpeckers are working the trees along with sapsuckers while the passerines shoot by in short bursts of color and wings. I can see five nests from my vantage point, all different. Down by the creek this morning I found three different species of frogs and a perfect mud turtle making her slow way upstream. The woods are alive.

I stop for a second and try to imagine all the activity around me as forms of embodied energy. The cottontail which will nourish the hawk or the feral cat is fed by a miraculous combustion of sun and water and carbon dioxide in the form of plants which will create excess matter and feed the forest floor, each process or death an expression of the transformation of matter into energy.

Above me is the rammed-earth house we live in, and its hive of books and chairs and appliances and art, also forms of embodied energy. The difference is that many of these forms of embodied energy were purchased and transported at great cost to the ecosystem, involving  the dangerous combustion of ancient irreplaceable fossil fuels. My house is lovely and sheltering, but it is not alive. It will not replenish the forest floor except in geologic time.

Here at Dogwood we are deeply involved in conversations about energy. With biomass plants proposed throughout the South and the burning of trees supported even by some of our allies as a “renewable source”, we can see the potential for increased industrial logging of our native forests to feed the maw of big power companies. The South already leads the world in the percentage of forest cover loss, and this could be another deadly extraction with its usual losses: degradation of local ecologies and communities, pollution, increased carbon emissions.

We believe that forests have an intrinsic value in and of themselves which is greater than their use as a cheap energy source. We believe that we cannot effectively address climate change without protecting, restoring and improving the management of the world’s forests.

I have a definition of biomass which is scientific and spiritual, gathered from such diverse teachers as Starhawk and Wendell Berry. Biomass is the energy embodied in the living things around me, all the biological life in a given environment. It’s a relationship filled with wonder and reciprocity.

Let us respect it in all that we do.

Tree Frog

4 Responses to “Standing in the Deep Woods After a Long Satisfactory Rain”

  1. EcoWarrior

    Well said and written! I suspect, however, that your home is alive with love and energy for the land that shelters you and gives you peace.
    From a fellow spirit in Tennessee who also enjoys a live active/passive solar home in oak-hickory-poplar woods and meadow.

  2. Leif Diamant (wildearthleif)

    Hey Brother Gary

    This is beautiful intersection of writing and inspiration.
    The woods are alive, the world is alive, and clearly needs our participation to be the magnificent diverse place that it is.
    And passerines sent me to the dictionary.

    Thanks for being a warrior and priest for the earth and its inhabitants.

    From across the creek


  3. Tom Weiner

    Thanks for writing and sharing this slice of your life and your perceptions of your home and surrounding forest. The tribute you pay to our natural environment moves me and enables me to be reminded of what’s truly at stake when we threaten nature for the sake of our consuming culture. There are alternatives that do not damage and destroy the land and its flora and fauna. We have yet to wake up to the urgency of now. The Cree proverb tells the story: “Only when the last tree has died and the last river has been poisoned and the last fish has been caught will we realize that we can’t eat money.”
    Thanks for all you do, say, and write to try to bring justice and fair treatment of all living and non-living things to our planet.

  4. johnthebaker

    Wow what a beautifully written piece Gary
    and I appreciated the realization of Biomass as the energy embodied in all the living beings plants, trees, animals
    may all beings be well, may all beings be happy
    peace and a truly sustainable wind and solar powered future
    to us all so that the following generations can find Gary’s spot
    in the woods


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