Juxtaposition — From a Bench in the Forest


A photography group I frequent, assigns weekly photo scavenger hunts.  This week I hunt for juxtaposition.

In the midst of a dying forest, beneath a massive 8-prong oak — a tree of courage and strength — I sit. It’s the mother lode of juxtaposition.

A bench beneath an oak. C. Coimbra photo
A bench beneath an oak.

Encircled by pines and oaks, a grass-covered mound rises behind this bench, once inhabited by local indigenous people — or so said two women (one with a cane) who stopped to chat while I sit with a pen, a notepad and a camera bag.

Jays squabble. Like a drummer in the wild, a woodpecker hammers into a tree.  A grey squirrel jettisons straight up an 80-foot pine. Tiny birds, backlit by the morning sun, flutter in the oak’s high branches. The gobble of wild turkeys echo in the forest. The woodsy incense of forest-life and debris invigorates my senses.

Here, life seems abundant. But this rare forest — one of three Monterey pine forests in the world — dies a bit more with each blink of my eyes. Pines with green needles last week, are now tinged in burnt-sienna — the first sign of a tree’s fight for life.

Drought. Disease. Age. People. Earth. Wind. Fire. Water.  Planetary juxtaposition of elements.

I revel in the peace here. The forest sings like no other place on earth.  But like a lead anvil chained to my heart, I’m weighted down in sadness and concern.

This juxtaposed moment is something bigger than me.

Pines marked for the chainsaw.
Pines marked for the chainsaw.

Pink ribbons and splotches of red paint mark a deceased army of Monterey pines destined for the chainsaw.  Experts seem stumped beyond putting to rest the dead, overgrown and diseased trees.

As I wandered the forest path to this bench this morning, I passed by seedling Monterey pines. They stood straight, green, and eager to grow. They brought to mind the gentle man, a friend of mine, who grew them from seed. Like the cancer of this changing planet, he fell prey to the disease of errant cells. I imagine his ashes spread among them.

But as I write this, two forestry students, thin, jaunty, and without a wrinkle on their skin, hike past me sitting on this bench beneath an 8-prong oak tree. They search for solutions, they said.

Solutions, seedlings, and youth juxtaposed on an old and changing planet.  It’s quite the photo.

C. Coimbra photo
C. Coimbra photo

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