(Written on 9/12/2016)
On the tops of the Rocky Mountains there are trees dying from something called Pine Bark Beetles.
Whole forests turned gray with the life sucked out of them because these little beasts are going on parade in the summer haze.
The pine bark beetles have always been an issue for these forests. They’re not a foreign invader. The difference from then and now is global climate change.
Remember how it was 40 degrees in the North Pole last December? Or rather 70-80 degrees in Philly? Well, the Rocky Mountain tundra no longer freezes. Or rather 15,000 feet up it’s not freezing for long enough.
The pine bark beetles need a three day freeze to keep their eggs from living in any special quantity. That hasn’t happened in a decade. It’s left these forests unchecked. Pine bark beetle populations are sweeping the landscape, feeding on the sap of the trees for miles and miles.
Imagine death. Death is not some grim reaper. Death is the gray carcass of a dead tree that no longer breathes out oxygen. Now drive through it for over an hour. A hefty tinder box, the size of an entire mountain range that spreads across our midwestern horizon, waiting for a lightning strike that sets off an untameable apocalypse.
It starts with climate change. Which leads to warmer weather and the survival of something as lonely as a pine bark beetle. Which then results in the death of an entire alpine forest. Then lightning starts the fire and the whole thing burns for months, years. In turn, there are no longer any living roots holding the thing together. So now there’s flash floods and mudslides. Eventually one of the most immaculate places in our country becomes the scene of utmost devastation. And the most we can do is sit back and watch what the previous generations of industrial conquistadors have caused.
What’s next? We still have the choice for change, but we’re almost out of time.
(Written on 9/11/2016)
I’m familiar with Crow on every fence post, but it’s been a while since I’ve flown along his path. Soaring across the highway when we pass. The way the sky changes at sun down when it has more room to express itself. How Rocky Mountains are actually quite rocky when they begin to populate the horizon. Passing towns have signs like “historic” and “preserving the west” with pictures of cowboys and yet they’re only 100 years old. I begin to see sunsets followed by sunrises. Having completely fulfilling days.
Fox greets us at the first campsite. He stares nonplussed into the headlights waiting for us to make our move first. When we remain stunned he moves back to his lean-to stores. A pile of packaged meat, left by some wayward wanderer. Fox carries off ham, ribs, turkey wing, one at a time. His bushy tail sailing behind him especially pompous.
We decide on a campsite less occupied, a little further down the road. There’s a feeling of darkness in the night but we seem pretty much untouched by it. In the morning, Fox transformed back into his human form, comes and collects money for the campsite from us. He has a bit of a Southern drawl and is generally well-humored.
We see Coyote in the road. Several times. He’s snooping after Wild Turkey. Later on the trail, Wild Turkey leaves behind his tail feathers for us to gather. I find Hawk’s feather as well.
The trail to the pictoglyphs is still one of wonder. We drift through ruins, along canyons hundreds of feet deep, with bird faces and elder faces set in the stone.
Mule Deer comes and visits our camp in the morning. She realizes we’re friendly and invites her newborn fawn. And then her sister too. Turkey Vulture circles above. We wonder if she found Turkey for a meal.
The ancients visit our dreams. They visit our conscious conversations. We talk of existence and the story we all tell. We envision the effect of humanity on the ecosystem. We express intelligence is probably not humanoid, but rather a much larger system. Aren’t moons intelligent? Aren’t whole planets? If intelligence were to grow to its full potential, wouldn’t it want to go some place it couldn’t be found?
The landscape is serene. It is the definition of serenity. There’s some days where it’s even more pretty. But every day the sun sets and the sun rises in the most dazzling of colors.