A Perception of Chaos

I grew up watching my artist father clear fallen brush from our small, beloved woods. For him it was an act of devotion. His hard work was presented to me
as a needful thing, a taking care of the precious land. Saturdays I sometimes helped, learning to snap long, dead branches over my knee, gleaning kindling
for our fireplace, dragging and piling limbs on his strategically located brush piles. Always a zealous teacher, he explained to me how brush piles
provided safe hiding places for creatures and emphasized the necessity of clear paths.

When we came to </b><a title=”Singing Meadow” href=”https://perimcquay.ca/?page_id=310″target=”_blank”><b><i><i><b>SingingMeadow</b></i></i></b></a><b><i><b>,</b></i></b><b> </b>where glades of brittle aspens yield much debris, it was natural for me to continue as he had taught me. In the hectic days I spent on site while our new home was being built, I found gathering fallen branches and making brush piles steadying. The growing piles of tree limbs were a promise of happy times ahead, working on
the land. My father’s daughter, at first the chaotic “hangers”, tilted dead trees caught in the arms of live ones, bothered me. In fact, probably they still do, although I’ve come to know better.

I still will try to leave the woods closest to my house “tidy”, in hopes of seeing grandchildren running about there, and enabling my own increasingly clumsy steps to continue into old age. But I’ve learned to doubt the wisdom of the enthusiastic clearing I expected to do. I think originally I may have seen my gathering as claiming the land. Now I know I need not do this, and indeed, removing the rubble is actually slowing the building of soil.

It’s like the difference between counting birds and observing birds. When it comes to forest debris, there’s something less acquisitive and more respectful about letting be. Tidiness is ever the enemy of nature. There is a rich fertility within the chaos which used to trouble me. What’s happened is that I am becoming increasingly appreciative of how apparently random strewing, actually heals and secures the land, death into life, and I am less likely to intervene.

About Peri McQuay

Peri Phillips McQuay is the author of Singing Meadow: The Adventure of Creating a Country Home, The View From Foley Mountain, a book of nature meditations on her experiences living for 30 years at the Foley Mountain Conservation Area and A Wing in the Door: Life With a Red-tailed Hawk is the story of her adventures with Merak, a human-imprinted hawk, who lived free but saw McQuay and her family as her special people. Also Peri has written numerous essays, articles, book reviews and a weekly column, published in the Kingston Whig-Standard Magazine. Her credits include Country Journal, Harrowsmith, Bird Watcher’s Digest, The Snowy Egret, Seasons, The Fiddlehead, Herizons and Brick.
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