The stone cottage with seashells embedded in the walls was just a bonus. The woods was a tangle of honeysuckle, euonymous and poison ivy, with a variety of oaks, hackberry and elms, a couple of old apple trees and a small struggling peach, all that remained of a once thriving garden and orchard, along with patches of gooseberries. A jungle of mock oranges was in one corner close to the cottage behind an old frame, one-room house that was falling into disrepair. An ancient smoke tree, a red dogwood and a young hawthorn graced what was a sort of a lawn. It was going to be a lot of work!
But down the street and directly behind my woods, there was a two-acre lot that was kept neatly mowed by absentee owners; with a wet-weather drainage stream in the hollow and huge old oaks towering on the hilly slope above it. It was spring; the grass was studded with a zillion wildflowers; anemones, adder's tongue, violets, buttercups and hundreds more tiny spring flowers. It was heaven!
My neighbor to the south kept his lawn and the acre behind his house, which adjoined the meadow, neatly manicured as well, with more old oaks probiding shade.
And it stayed that way for several years. I loved it, loved to walk through that lovely meadow with the flowers and birds, into the woods beyond that, which had been let grow for many years and had majestic 300 hundred year old oaks, mayapples, mossy creek banks and a huge patch of blackberries, the remnants of a once thriving, pick-your-own berry farm.
But alas, things change and soon disaster befell this little slice of Eden. I was never sure why, though I did ask questions but got no clear answers. It might have been because the owner got tired of keeping it mowed, or sold it, but one day trucks began dumping huge quantities of fill all over the pristine meadow; huge pieces of concrete and rock and clay until in some places it was nearly 3 feet deep, from an excavation which was going on for a new highschool. That was the end of it ever being mowed again. And it was disastrous for the venerable oaks, having their roots buried under tons of debris. It took 4 or 5 years for them to die, but the aged giants began to topple over, one after another, leaving tangled branches and trunks on top of the chunks of concrete and tall grasses that now filled this once serene place. It was painful to watch the honeysuckle and poison ivy take over, smothering everything. The wet-weather drainage was filled with four feet of that crap, damming up the neighborhood drainage to the north. Since we are not in the city, there were no codes in place to stop the dumping, and it went on while we stood by helplessly. After all, it wasn't our property.
Shortly after that, the mature woods on the other side was brutally decimated when the (different) owner decided to build apartment buildings where they stood, and cut down all those wonderful oaks, selling them off to someone who manufactures pallets. (!!!) It too soon became an impossible tangle of honeysuckle and brush, the woods gone. So was part of the noise buffer the trees provided between us and the freeway
half a mile to the south. The apartment house never materialized as neighborhood opinion quickly quashed that. We circulated petitions and showed up en masse before the city council (that property is in the city limits, just barely) on the day the permit hearing was held. The permit was refused, but it was too late for the woods. Then he decided to build a single dwelling there, and began building up part of that land with fill dirt and debris also, until there is now a mound some 50' high. Most of the blackberries are covered up and it is truly an ugly sight. I will spare you that picture. Finally the city put a stop to the dumping because of neighborhood complaints, and nothing more has happened to it. I am sure the owner will never carry out his plans. He just laid the area to ruins.
Soon after, my south neighbor died, and his back acre fell into neglect with no one to care for it. It grew up into tall grass and weeds, the house rented out to a string of tenants, none of whom have been into lawn maintainence. It began to blend with the ruined meadow and now seems to be a part of it.
Life goes on. The land has been lying fallow for the 15 years or so since the first dumping went on behind us, in the area we now call Out Beyond. It is still covered with honeysuckle, and the ice storm of '07 did further damage to the remaining trees, littering huge branches everywhere and felling some more of the weaker trees, which still lie.
What's left of the last big oaks to decline and fall. It took 10 years for this one to die.
Most of the concrete chunks are covered now, the stream has cut a new path and drains the area once again, and there is reforesting going on, with young oaks and hickories growing tall. Some old oaks that didn't get buried still survive, though many are slowly declining, providing woodpecker homes in dead branches.
A sycamore or two, several wild pears, cherries, a cottonwood, lots of elms and hackberries, to be expected, a few young maples, and a young white pine is thrusting its way skyward among a mess of honeysuckle. There was another, but the deer stripped the bark and killed it, which is why we haven't cleared the vines around the survivor; to restrict access to it. It seems to be growing well anyway and is taller than I am.
Wonder who lives in here? Groundhog, maybe.
This moss is going home with me on my next woods walk.
Unidentified wildflower (need to look this up)
Nature has a wonderful way of concealing scars.
"Naure is a mutable cloud which is always and never the same."
Ralph Waldo Emerson