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Pastor's Blog

The Red Oak among the White Pines

November 28, 2017

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Deep in the Oconto County Forest, a middle-aged red oak grows alone in a stand of orderly rows of white pines.  Having been planted about 30 - 35 years ago, the part of the Oconto County Forest through which I have been walking for the last month or so is in various stages of use.  Some of the forest has been clear cut in the last five years or so.  Some of it has been clear cut about 25 years ago: a mix of first growth species … birches, poplars, pines … of all the same relative age (I counted rings) attest to that harvest a quarter of a century ago.  Some of the forest, down deep in the canyon carved by a once powerful glacial drainage river, some white pines at least a century old tower over a crowd of swamp-seeking cedars.  And some of the forest belies its human engineering:  rows and rows of pines, red or white, march up slopes and along trails and ridges, the forest floor in these places thick with tan needles, a beech rising up here and there, reaching out to snatch any ray of sun the pines allow down.  In one of these sections of the forest, a middle-aged oak grows.  It’s a bit older than its fellows, its trunk a bit thicker, its gnarled black arms making it stand out as if it were a menacing creature lurking among the perfectly straight, reddish-brown trunks of the white pines.  I hadn’t noticed it on my previous trips.  Once I saw it today, I became aware of a few other oaks growing in the same circumstances, and I noticed that in this particular forest, it has been a practice to leave oaks standing where all the pines had been cleared away.  At first I thought the squirrel had planted it at the same time the humans had planted their forest, and maybe the squirrel had planted it, but I’m pretty sure it was the humans who had spared it.  Not sure why.  Maybe to kill it one day when it’s older and more valuable.  For now it grows among its pine friends.  The red oak the forest managers left behind is one of the few good things the humans have left behind in the forest.  Along the trail on a ridge above the Brehmer Creek “canyon,” people have abandoned a series of piles of garbage.  Today, I had planned to pick up the trash, and I packed out about 30 pounds of recyclables and refuse.  One black dress shoe.  One camo glove.  One blue terry towel.  Dozens of empty water bottles, their covers meticulously screwed on.  Fewer empty soda cans and only a few beer cans.  Black plastic trays from McDonald’s meals.  A stack of red party cups.  Nine disposable razors.  Several empty cans of soup partly filled with forest loam.  These piles of trash looked more like the kinds of things a homeless person or a runaway teen would have left behind more than it looked like they were evidence of under-age drinking parties.  Runaway teens or homeless people in the middle of a county forest?  Could be.  I find a lot of unwanted things there.  A mound of carpet.  A TV set, its screen smashed.  Smashed pumpkins.  A cooler in the creek.  Carcasses of a couple deer.  Harvested illegally and left?  Bloody rib cages, white with fat.  Thin legs hacked off, fur and hooves.  No heads.  No sign of scavengers.  No turkey vultures, crows, eagles, bears, coyotes … no one had disturbed any of the humans had left behind.   As if these kinds of animals wanted me to see the desecration my species had perpetrated on their home.  They’re preaching to the choir.  I’ll make another trip to get the rest of the trash.  The corpses I cannot carry alone.

Pastor Larry

The Storm

November 21, 2017

The Storm

No storm the summer of my first call unleashed precipitation of any kind.

The Heart of Silence

November 14, 2017

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In the heart of silence paradox abides.

Silence, the absence of something, something akin to nothing: it doesn’t seem like you’d have to make an effort to make nothing happen. 

The Colors of Fall

November 6, 2017

This year, a lot of leaves on a lot of trees are still green.  The leaves, in fact, on one of the gingko trees on Moravian Street are all green, as green as if it were July.  They’re green, apparently, because it has been sunny and warm enough for them to continue to produce chlorophyll, the chemical that gives leaves their green color.  The leaves on this particular tree are green, I think, because it’s protected in some way by the church building.  Because right next to the gingko that reminds me of summer was one that’s more exposed to the wind that was all adorned in gold. 

Now its branches are bare.