The truck rumbled and rattled and crackled along the gravel road back to the park office; I was sitting in the bed, relaxing in the open air. The cool air and the speed of the truck felt brisk, though it was fortunately offset by the pleasant warmth and radiance of the sunny day. The truck and its passengers were all given shadowy, temporary stripes as we drove through acres and acres of beautiful Missouri forest. The forest seemed to march with pride alongside us. The still-green pines and cedars were attempting to outshow the leafless deciduans. Only a few brown and brittle leaves still bravely clung to their oak and hickory homes. But the eye cannot miss the occasional grand oak, burly and rugged. Those grand trees seemed to command their offspring and their companions: oaks, hickories, hackberries, honey locusts, persimmons, walnuts… From our truck bed, all of the trees seemed to be marching. The trees closest to the road marched swiftly, while the trees several yards from the road trudged at a moderate pace. The tree ranks closer to the horizon seemed only to saunter across the countryside. All, however, were marching under the sky flag of blue, white, and light.
This grand and relaxing procession ended one of my first service outings with the Sierra Club EMG at Hawn State Park. I had joined friends and strangers to help remove some old fencing. Like many parks in the area, most of the land at Hawn State Park has been purchased from or donated by private landowners. For one reason or another, old cattle-fields were left to the advances of the forest and many forgotten fences were overtaken. The wildlife that returns with the forest, however, has to deal with the hazards of barbed wire and the possibility of injury when crossing half-buried, brittle fence. Thus, our group set out to tear down some of these old fences and open up the back country.
I must admit, I feared the cold would make me slow and useless. However, I quickly warmed up through activity and sunny exposure. March. We slowly followed the rusty, dilapidated fence line. Snip. We snipped a section of fence. Pull. We pulled the fence and flattened any messes. Fold. We folded the metal wire fence into neat stacks. Flag. Finally, we flagged the fence for finding later; pulling all of the fence bales from the forest would be another day’s work. Indeed, I found myself helpful during this outing.
This is what I need. This is what anyone stuck in the city, stuck in the office, stuck in suburbia, needs; some sun and some nature to offset the constant exposure to man-made constructs and rat races. Go outside!! “In every walk with nature, one receives far more than he seeks.” ~John Muir