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Forest Sympathy

Posted by Szayel on October 11, 2015 at 12:15 AM Comments comments (3)

I hold a trash bag in my left hand. In my right is a garden tool for cutting weeds. I pause for a second, wiping the sweat from my forehead. It's well into dusk, and looking up a tree towers before me. It's covered with English Ivy vines that constrict it, thriving off its slow, painful demise. Scars run up the tree like lashes from a whip.

I put my headphones back on. Sounds pass through my ears, a variety of tempos, rhythms, and genres. Emotion fuels me. It reminds me to focus on the task at hand--cutting the vines--but it makes trying to avoid the thoughts that pester my mind much more difficult.

I cut, cut, cut. The vines are difficult. They refuse to leave the tree without a fight, tearing the bark off spitefully whenever I try to pry them away. They sneer at my futile attempts to do good. They laugh.

It's so hard.

Negative thoughts overcome me. They threaten to swallow me whole, and I can't help but let a moan of despair escape my lips. There's a physical pain that beats in my chest. It's real, tangible. It grabs me and forces me to my knees where I crumble and stare at the base of the tree. Ants march past, pausing now and then to watch my suffering with slight concern. Spiders rear back warily. The sun continues to fade into a deep, crimson red. Life goes on.

"What's the point?" I think. "Why am I here? Why am I trying to save this dumb tree?"

It seems impossible to me. There are English Ivies all over the state. I'm one out of  the small group of people that volunteer temporarily to cut away this invasive species. I don't feel that we are absolved of the responsibility to clear the vines; settlers brought them over from England when they first came Maryland. I just feel that it's pointless. The vines will never be gone. There's too many of them and not enough of us. Why fight? Why care? Do our efforts even matter?

The vines play dirty. They strip the trees of their bark when pulled away; they sap you of your strength and leave hideous scars in the process. With each tree that I save I'm reminded of the dozens that I didn't. Or, with each tree that I think I save there's always the possibility that I didn't save shit and my efforts were useless.

"Why live?" I think. The thought comes from nowhere but somehow doesn't surprise me in the least. Of course it wouldn't take long for my nihilistic mood to tumble my thoughts about these damn weeds into a question of life and living. The question had never been far from my mind, I suppose.

"Why live?" It's not an easy question to answer. My immediate response is to say, "because I'm here! I'm existing. We're existing! Isn't that enough?"

It's not. Otherwise, I wouldn't be having these thoughts, now would I?