This is an excerpt from the book I am writing about National Forest Roadless Areas. The book will include bits of my journaling and this is from when I was in the Mallard Larkins Pioneer area of northern Idaho. You can see more about the project here: www.nelsonguda.com/roadless
July 24, 2006
It is early morning. Somewhere off beyond the mountains, the sun has been lighting the landscape for more than an hour, but here in the heart of northern Idaho the forests are still places of shadow. The lake we pitched our tents near is dead still as if the darkness from the surrounding woods is swirling down into its depths, opening the forest and readying it for the creatures of the day.
As the lake siphons the silence out of the forest, I study the multitude of shapes taking form out of the darkness. The forest here is old. Un-burnt, uncut, it is an old that speaks softly and goes unnoticed. Further to the west, the old forests of the rainy coast drip centuries off the end of their branches like the condensed Pacific fog that feeds their towering forms. Those forests, with their massive cathedral-like proportions, cannot help but convey a sense of age. But here in these narrow, rumpled watersheds of northern Idaho, the trees are neither massive nor overwhelmingly tall. Here it is the mix of forms, sizes and species that, like an old bookstore, holds its story close within its covers. Yet, it is nothing more than a community that has been free to grow with its own disruptions and continuities rather than one laid flat by the homogenizing, landscape scale disruption of clearcut logging and massive fire.
Finding this spot is like discovering the forgotten inner pocket of an old, rarely used winter coat – a place so unlike those around it that it feels as though it must belong to another era. I woke early to watch the forest ‘come to life’, and now I find myself reflecting on what a silly phrase I chose to consider this moment in time. This place has been in life, day and night, through seasons upon seasons of brutal summer heat and bitter winter cold. It is only me that has come to life here, and the forest is the one who is watching, waiting and wondering what I will do.
I turn back around to watch the first shrapnel of morning light explode out of a reflection of the rock face two hundred feet above the far side of the lake. Meanwhile the meadow where I am standing is ablaze in a cacophonous mist of wings searching in desperation for a last meal before the sun rises above the trees and sends them back to rest in the greenery at the water’s edge. They land on every exposed surface – my face, my eyelids, my ears, my nostrils – I count twelve on the back of my hand and then after I have shaken them off I count eleven more within less than a second. I reflect on the unfortunate fact that I left the bug repellent in the car.