Goodbye, Ol’ Friend

When I tell people I’m going back home to see my family and they ask me where home is, I always say, “The Georgia mountains.” And they always have a similar response, “That’s God’s country.”

In a way, it is. Yeah, sure, most people may say that about their hometowns. But the Georgia mountains are uniquely beautiful, in my humble opinion.

Growing up there I developed a deep appreciation for nature, the weather, everything earthly. People there are very connected to the earth. They plant gardens in the summer and raise their own chickens. They eat what they grow. You bush hog your fields in the fall. There’s apple-picking season in October and blackberry winter in the early spring. You make jams and jellies and can your own vegetables. It’s how life is there.

It’s that experience, the connection to the earth you develop living in a place like that, that worries me so about our current climate policies. The entire attitude toward climate change really. It’s troubling for me.

I spent almost my entire childhood in the woods, watching animals live their lives, trying to figure out if something was an oak or hickory tree, playing in creeks on hot summer days. I gathered nuts and piled them up for squirrels because I thought they needed help. That part of my childhood, I wouldn’t change for the world.

But I also saw the effects logging can have on the environment. It happened around our place for a while. It stopped eventually, but it wasn’t good. Just red clay everywhere – nothing green. And I could (and still can actually) feel the house shake when they mined for the marble on the other side of the mountain, putting God knows what in the water table.

I mentioned this in a previous post, but I keep seeing trees falling over for no apparent reason other than a light wind or drizzle of rain. Giant, old trees that should have deep roots. But they can’t withstand anything any more.

Or someone cuts a tree out of their yard, and you notice as it’s coming down that it’s completely hollow on the inside. It’s just a shell of a tree. What’s causing all the trees to hollow out? I have no idea. But I’ve seen far too many of them like that to know it’s not just a fluke.

Bees are dying out everywhere, and if you eat as much honey as I do, you know how upsetting that is. I’ve been told squirrels are disappearing back home. Insects are out of control where I grew up because it never gets cold enough in the winter to kill them off like it used to. That was the purpose of cold winter days for us — to control the insect population — naturally, without chemicals. But we stayed near 70 this entire winter.

Our planet is changing, and it’s doing so quickly. I’m afraid the world I knew. The one I loved and still love. The woods that gave me peace and sanctuary as a child. I’m afraid that will go away in my lifetime. I don’t want to lose that.

The truth is that we can’t lose that. Without that, there’s no us. There’s no air. There’s no food. Just nothing. I hope people recognize that. And I hope they do so before it’s too late.

Here’s a little poem or maybe a walking meditation to the world outside that I cherish with all my heart.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Goodbye, Ol’ Friend

i went to see
my ol’ friend
late in the
afternoon
i wanted to stay
’til dark
i needed to see
him
enjoy his company
one last time
fearing he might
leave soon

my ol’ friend
the woods i grew
up in
sometimes he was
my only friend
my playmate
as a child

the sun was
still up
I strolled at a
slow pace
like a late-night
conversation


trees in every

direction
leaves covered
everything
acorns dropped
from above
the sun danced
upon the ground

i scared some
birds hidden
in the bush

they flew off
in different
directions

squirrels chased
each other across
the branches
the wind rustled
the leaves
a dragonfly
circled my head

there it was
behind a log
the old tree i
used to play in
four huge trunks
joined together
the perfect hiding
place

i crawled in the

center
just like i used to
plenty of room
inside
between the
trunks
you could see the
entire forest
but it couldn’t see
you
above you
you had your own
piece
of sky
a striped lizard
with a tail bluer
than the
heavens
ran up the trunk
beside me

i stroked the
bark
like it was my pet
in a way
it was

dusk rolled in
shadows grew
darker
crickets sang
their tune
fireflies floated
between the trees

the evening star
appeared
in the
sky

ah, look at that
a deer up
ahead
she looked me
directly in the eye
my ol’ friend
never disappointed
always gave me
a special gift
every time

Slowly
i made my way
back to the edge
of the woods
i always hated
leaving
i stepped into
the field
the place where
i entered the
thicket
i turned back
for one last
look

goodbye, ol’ friend
in case i don’t
see you again

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