Umpqua National Forest, Oregon

“Messy.”  Or any other adjective to describe the same thing.  It’s not the first word that instantly comes to mind when I go into the forests of Oregon, but it is a sense I get.  Trees fall here and nobody cleans them up.  Moss grows to cover every centimeter of a branch or entire tree and no one comes by to peel it off.  Sword ferns begin to grow in the moss, on those branches, and nothing or no one feels the need to transplant those ferns back onto the ground, where they’re normally found.  Shrubs die; logs rot and sink into the earth; stumps remain, squat and shattered; fallen leaves cover sections of grounds in brownish patches, get slimy and ultimately disintegrate; rock cliffs wear; younger trees bend and tilt under the weight of the rain and snow, sometimes toppling; water flows sideways over the footpaths; the ground becomes unlevel; and all the while life continues on, falling over or on top of itself, fed continuously by the rain, the sun and the decay around it.

In Europe–the western part of it, anyway–there are some countries that have environmental regulations in place to maintain the cleanliness of their forests.  Employees go in and remove the fallen trees, leaves and duff, in an effort to be pre-emptive about blight and other floral illness and pro-active about sustainable forest management.  I’ve seen the photos and heard the outrage from the native forest-lovers who’ve traveled abroad and brought back pictures and stories of visual forest sterility.  You won’t get that here in Oregon.  Or anywhere else in the U.S., I don’t believe.  These places–these national forests around here–are all quite beautifully filthy, so to speak.


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