The Life & Death (?) of a Cedar Tree


Sept. 1, 2020. Cedar trees engage all your senses. Their fragrant needles tickle the nose. Their crooked, twisted branches confuse the eyes. Their sinewy bark agitates the fingers. Their snap-crackle-pop in the campfire delights the ear.

The cedar tree stands for strength, and they live 100 years or more. I wonder why we’ve lost so many at Camp Many Moons – about a dozen in my first two years here. Some were felled by us to make room for a road, but many more were felled by storms. I ask myself if I weakened them somehow by violating their habitat. To escape the whispering guilt, I tell myself the Northern White Cedar probably isn’t as hardy as other types. Then I notice that many have fallen at nearby plots also. I wonder if they are just plain tired, like me, of how testy humans have become lately. Maybe it’s easier to just give up sometimes. Let yourself fall down. End this phase of life.

It’s not healthy to dwell in gloomy thoughts, so I busy myself with making use of the fallen. Chop, split, pile. Chop, split, pile. (What’s that saying? “Chop wood, carry water.” Immerse yourself in the healing task at hand.) I leave some of it in rounds, for splitting later. I split some into kindling for immediate use. As I work, a new thought comes: This isn’t a death! It’s a recycling! More “giving in” then “giving up”…surrendering to the cycles that govern nature, and humanity. New cedars will grow in the soil that is nurtured by the decaying stumps of the old. The fallen cedars will warm us through the winter to come. All is in order. All will evolve. Breathe. Wait. And watch.

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