Monday, October 25, 2010

Smoky Mountain Season

The drive from Kentucky to Georgia offers several routes. One is mostly interstate, cities, trucks and traffic. One is a scenic four-lane highway through rolling countryside. And if you are not in a hurry, one is through the majestic Smoky Mountains, touristy, and worth the congestion. That is the route we took returning to Atlanta. We counted as two of the 9,000,000 people who visit the park every year who: picnic beside the rolling, chilly streams; hike on trails padded by pine needles and flanked by woodland ferns; and gaze at smoky vistas that take your breath away. No wonder it is one of the most visited parks in the country.
In 1900, nearly 70 percent of the current park had been devastated by the logging industry. Seeing that a beautiful part of our country was about to be destroyed, great efforts were made by individuals to buy and preserve the land and in 1920, the government started making efforts to buy up the land. In 1934 Congress established the Great Smoky Mountain National Park, and now almost 100 years later, the park encompasses over 500,000 acres of land - always in transition, always under the watchful eye of forest rangers and environmentalists, and always returning with new growth, new splendor, new life.
We stopped only long enough to get a sandwich for our picnic before heading into the park to find a roadside stop. Everyone else had the same idea, so we backed our car in, put down the tailgate and sat, munching on our lunch, admiring the view. I offered to take a picture for the people next to us. They were locals and I asked them about the huge volume of dead evergreen trees in the forest. They explained that a little bug had infested the Firs and Balsams and was destroying the forest. They said they would probably all be gone in the next 10 years. I wanted to cry.
As we drove out of the Smokies, I cherished those tall remaining trees, standing majestic among their fallen neighbors. I could not help but wonder what was being done to save them. I have learned that since the discovery in 1963 of the trouble maker insect - the balsam woolly adelgid - studies are ongoing to monitor and preserve the forest. Researchers are discovering that some of the firs are resisting the trouble-maker and saplings are re-appearing. Lush ferns are replenishing barren soil where the trees formerly prevented light. New life is appearing.
I remembered an earlier trip to Wyoming after some devastating forest fires and one scene comes back vividly. The forest beside of us was burned black. But if you looked closely, you could see a moose with her calf among the tree trunks. They were feeding on lush green growth at the base. Around them were vibrant wild flowers. New life and growth was bursting forth.
Our lives are very much like a forest. In a perfect world, we would have just the right amount of rain and sunshine and something like a balsam wooly adelgid would not exist. We would co-exist with others in a friendly environment where we complemented and nurtured those around us. Nothing would fight against us or seek to destroy. Our lives would be lush and productive. We would all live like The Three Bears in the forest, happily ever after.
Oh, how I wish it were so. Oh, how I wish there were remedies for deadly insects, deadly diseases, forest fires, and disasters of every kind. Today's falling leaves remind me that it is all for just a season. New growth will occur. One day disease and death will be no longer. We must wait. And while we wait, we can live in the hope of it happening. This is just a season.
My friend gave me a pie plate that quotes Ecclesiastes, " To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven." She lives daily with Multiple Sclerosis, waiting in the hope of a disease-free world. I wait with her. This is just a season.