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The High Cost of Progress

Updated: Aug 1, 2020

I am for progress. And I benefit from progress. But sometimes I see the cost of progress in a more personal way. There’s an old sandy trail near our house that used to wander through the woods for about three miles, most of it shaded by overhanging trees. It had some soupy holes you needed to carefully drive around or through. It was close to nature, and let you feel you were in their territory when you saw a deer or some other wild animal

meandering over the road.

Well, it’s being improved, and we will now have an alternative route to go north up to Free Soil Road. It will be convenient. But it is costing a lot. I’m not talking about the money the Road Commission is spending. They’re probably doing a good job with the limited funds available. But I am keenly aware of what I will never see again.

They had to fell some beautiful tall trees that had stood near the path for a century. One of them lies fallen in my picture here. Then, too, a number of ancient stumps disappeared, run over and bulldozed into the mud and dust. They were the remains of tall white pines harvested here during the great lumber days of the late 1890s or 1900s. Left alone, such a stump is slowly, ever so slowly, transformed naturally into a circle of miniature spires, like a woodsy cathedral. They give testimony to the great forest of pines that was here before the lumber companies sent them to Chicago or somewhere to build houses and businesses. Some people thought the pine forest would last forever, but of course, it did not. One of those stumps like that pictured here was gone the next day after I took its picture. If you break off a sliver of that old wood you can smell the rich remainder of ancient sap that burns readily.

Those pines were replaced by deciduous trees, oaks, maples, beach, and others. These are the tall trees now fallen because they grew in the official right of way. Some of them were 90 feet tall, having had a century to grow unmolested. They were now the old ones that would grow older if left alone. For me, these are precious, wondrous pieces of nature. I suppose there are still enough of them in the rest of the woods.

We will enjoy buzzing up the new road at 40 or 50 miles an hour. And we will probably not notice the nearby woods as much. We will be in too much of a hurry to take a deep breath and wonder at all the beautiful old things that once grew and are still growing nearby. That’s a high price to pay for progress. The road will be wonderful, but the natural world is full of wonders more glorious for those who will notice. I want to be one of those who do.

Let the trees of the forest sing for joy before the Lord,

for he is coming to judge the earth.

I Chronicles 16:33 NLT


© 2020 Stanley Hagemeyer

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