Mar 30, 2010

Temporary forests

The trees look permanent. Even though, in the parking lot, they are obviously not, the stands of spruce and cedar and pine induce an assumption of permanence.

They come down in November, temporary forests, and are erected at the Home Depot, the Kroger, and at the farmers' market, where there keepers attend to them with hoses and saws, rope and netting. At the market the men and women who watch the trees, tend to them and sell them, are the same people who grew them, and they come with the trees. Perhaps for them the temporariness of this forest is obvious, the cyclical part of it, they way they're all already drying out and dying, the contrast between the trees here and they way they were, spaced out, up in the open spot in the mountains where they were grown. When I talk to these people, though, the families that grow trees, the dwarf from Tennessee or the airplane engineer who does this now that he's retired, they talk as if even those forests, even trees planted in the ground, are really only temporary.

They plant them, and they cut them, and in their minds, in the long view farmers have, the trees are not a part of the unmovable earth, the background, or nature, not a part of the make-up of things as they are, but only a change that will change again. The man who started the first cut-your-own farm on the south side of Atlanta said there was no such thing, 100 years ago, and most of the breeds of trees you see now didn't even exist when he began, and those that did were unknown here.

He keeps a row or two of trees just for grafting. Just for experiments. Because the trees aren't permanent, and everything is in flux.