(photo: Brian Townsend)

Child of the Forest

Karen Townsend
April 1998

In the forest, I wander with my child.
She is but three years old, her fist wrapped round my finger.
Bright yellow jelly on a log catches our attention.
"Feel this, Sheena. It's so cool and wiggly . . . witches' butter."
We gently stroke the jelly fungus and then continue on our way.
This small child watches the way I am with the forest creatures.
She hears in my voice the respect and love I feel for all life.
And she remembers.

On the highway, I am driving with my child.
She is five years old, big enough to see out the car windows.
It has been a few months since we travelled
this route out to Penobsquis.
We drive on pavement through the forest,
then suddenly the trees are gone.
Both sides of the highway cut clear back as far as we can see.
Naked, the land reveals its private shapes--hillocks and rocky outcrops.
My child asks with concern,
"What about the animals who lived in this forest?
Where are they now?"
I tell her about the ones who travel distances easily.
How they would have run and some would have found places to live
in the surrounding forest with space enough to find food.
I don't tell her about the thousands of tadpoles whose bodies
withered like raisins when their tiny ponds dried up in the hot sun.
I don't tell her about the many delicate salamanders
that died when they lost the coolness of the forest floor.
I don't tell her about the hundreds of small creatures
crushed to death by monster harvesting machines.

In our yard, one sunny December morning
we hear the nearby sounds of chainsaws and we are afraid.
The forest bordering two sides of our small property is being clearcut!
Sometime later, I walk with my eleven year old to see the harvesting.
She looks at where the forest used to be
And then she looks at me.
I see the tears in her eyes
and her look that says, "What could ever justify this devastation?"
I feel my own heart echo her grief.
I speak to her of North America's insatiable appetite for paper.
I speak to her of jobs for our fellow New Brunswick citizens.
Her look says, "You are sick. All of you are sick!
What are you doing to stop this?"

I scramble to buy a few more acres of doomed forest
in an effort to buffer our own bit of forest and save a few more trees.
My child, now fifteen,
does not complain about missing me when I am often
away at meetings working with the Fundy Model Forest partners.
Her fervent hopes are bound with mine that somehow
untouched forests can once again be treasured.
When our people are awake again we will come to know
that we all are Children of the Forest.