Larchfall: Beauty in and for a Damaged Larch Forest

Trebbe Johnson
Florence Shelly Wetlands, Thompson, PA 18465
2019

Story Info

Larchfall: Beauty in and for a Damaged Larch Forest

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Story & Experience

Although I have walked in this preserve, just a mile from my home, many hundreds of times over the past 30 years, there are always surprises. Today was no exception.

First, I woke up in the middle of the night with the thought that our Global Earth Exchange this year wasn’t “serious” or “difficult” enough. In previous years, I’ve offered events for dying bats, fracked farmlands, the polluted Susquehanna River, and dying hemlock trees. This plan struck me, at 3:00 AM, as too mild. The second surprise was who showed up. I had invited about a dozen people. Five had said they couldn’t come, and the remaining seven just didn’t appear. So it was just my husband Andy and me. To be honest, it took me about 15 minutes’ walk down the trail toward the larches to get over feeling disappointed about that. I had to remind myself of one of the guidelines we created years ago: It’s an Earth Exchange even if it’s just you and a friend… or just you and the Earth.

So Andy and I set off, and it was a beautiful morning—sunny, mild, and too breezy for June insects to alight. We’ve had torrents of rain here this year, and there were wet places along the trail where the ground had been dry before. It had only been a couple of months since we’d walked the trail with the larches, but we were stunned by the difference. All the rain and the sudden spurt of summertime growth had transformed this labyrinth of lace-rooted trees into a new landscape. Grasses and young trees were growing out of and around the fallen larches and almost hiding them. Many of the interlocking roots had disintegrated and fallen away. New growth was reclaiming old wounds.

We spent some time, alone and together, taking in what was before us. This is what we noticed:

Andy: I remember when that microburst happened, how we had to cut through so many trees to reposition the trail around them. At that time I missed the trees, but I loved that path of toppled giants. Now, I have to say I love the regeneration, but I’m a little bit sad now that that magical area has changed so much. The other larch trees that are still standing don’t look so healthy either. I’ll bet the next time we walk down this trail, some of them will have fallen as well. And look at all the ash trees that are coming up. The ash trees are being killed by the emerald ash borer, but I’ve never seen so many new ash trees in this area. Nature is always changing. It’s marvelous.

Trebbe: Every time I enter this preserve, I feel swept up by it, and I’m so grateful we live nearby. I’m aware of the dying ash trees, the heavy rains that may become a regular pattern with climate change, the diminishment of bird species who pass through here. I feel so sad so often about the fate of this planet, and this preserve is always such a refuge. I think of all the other people around the world who are going to hurt places today and making beauty for them, and I feel happy that so many places on the Earth are being tended and given some beauty by the people who care about them.

Why this Place?

Florence Shelly Wetlands, Thompson, PA 18465

Several years ago, a storm blew down about a dozen larch trees in this wetlands preserve, turning the trail into a labyrinth of upturned giants. Although we were sorry for the loss of the trees, we loved walking through their new incarnation. Today we wanted to honor both the destruction and the beauty of the larch trees.

Act of Beauty

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For our act of beauty we hung the RadJoy flag and made a wreath to hang among the upturned roots of one of the larch trees. The main part of the wreath is made of goldenrods, a plant that is often regarded as a weed. We tied the wreath with some of the golden yarn from last year’s Global Earth Exchange, People Binding the Earth. The leaves right under the yarn are from a young ash tree. The ash trees are dying because of infestation by the emerald ash borer, but they are springing up all over the preserve. The wildflowers were scattered around the larches. And the droopy plant at the far right of the wreath is jewelweed, which is popping up in abundance this spring.

Then we walked up the trail in the other direction to a bench that some Eagle Scouts had made a couple of years ago and had a picnic lunch.

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2019-06-23T07:44:14-08:00
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