Compassion for Nature

Overly Sensible or Sensitive?

An event took place five days ago which involved my wife, and an egg noodle she noticed lying precariously on the laundry room floor. Now if you knew Wanda, you’d be apt to know that anything other than carpet and vinyl is forbidden to lie about, under where a foot may tread.

The arousal of her suspicion caused upon my return home a greeting of determined fervor: “There is a mouse in my house-get it out, please!” As it was late at night, and I was completely exhausted, the alternative to my driving to the store for a classic mouse trap was to stuff towels in every conceivable entry hole to the drawer that held the bag of noodles. Upon my verification that the oddly symmetrical hole in the bag was made by a mouse, the noodles were tossed out along with a bag of rice, and a bag of beans.

That next evening, before settling down to watch a rented movie, I set two traps baited with Reese’s peanut butter cups, and placed them in the laundry room. Within fifteen minutes I heard a distinct snap. Looking over, and seeing Wanda completely engrossed in the movie, I decided not to tell her until the morning. (She slept peacefully that night.)

The next morning, while discarding the remains of a tiny mouse that was no bigger than my thumb, an inner, solemn feeling swept over me like that of being in close proximity to death.

The following day another event took place bringing with it a realization that my conscience is not as tuned into the world around me as I thought.

A friend of mine was in the process of renovating a trailer up on Reese Hill. He had a massive Alder tree that towered sixty feet over the front deck. This tree was a nuisance: It detracted from the view of the trees behind it, it stood on one side of a driveway that was planned to be put in; and it dropped nettles and dripped sap all over the deck.

“Get rid of it,” he said. So I proceeded to do just that.

Sure, I’ve pruned trees and bushes, and hacked off sprawling limbs, and cut up dead branches for firewood, but I had never chopped down an entire tree before.

After careful planning, I shimmied up a ladder to the highest point I could reach. Susan braced the ladder to keep it from wobbling too much. Tom stood thirty feet way poised with a rope that kept tension on the tree it the direction of its projected fall (via the anchored pulley).

First I made a horizontal cut one-third of the way through the trunk. Second was a sixty-degree angled cut from about twelve inches above the first notching. The last cut was from the backside angled down toward the wedge, stopping about mid-point. Eyeing a slight movement in the gap of the last cut, I turned the chain saw off and climbed down the ladder. I unharnessed the safety rope from around my waist, then walked over to Tom and told him to keep steady tension on the rope. “Okay, here we go,” I said, turning around, and right then, on cue, the mighty Alder tipped ever so slightly; bent over; then snapped, falling exactly on its planned spot.

After two hours of trimming, cutting, and cleaning up, I was left with one last task: cut the remaining twelve-foot-high stump down eight feet leaving a nice natural base to put a flower box atop.

I cut through, and the last length of the tree fell to the ground, smooth and level. I turned the chainsaw off for the last time.

A feeling swept over me like a lost direction. Staring down at the stump, I drew my finger over the inner rings that marked each year it had stood tall and proud. Fifty-seven years in this one spot.

Is a mouse so minuscule that its death matters not? Is a tree inept to feeling pain and suffering? Is a man so ignorant as to feel for only himself?

When I heard that snap while watching the movie, I winced inside. All I could think was, “Why did I do that?” I sat there and stared toward the laundry room door. I knew that the mouse was not in there squirming around and suffering — I had felt it die.

When I ran my fingers over that tree’s rings of age, I did not wince, for the tree still had life in it. I trembled, feeling the tree’s slow, suffering death, and the tears of nature crying out for mercy.

I am a man, thus a man who quickly threw up barricades to stifle those feelings of anguish and pain. Ignorance? Maybe. But I may not be so ignorant as to senselessly kill the innocence of nature again.
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When this article was written, Jonathan Moore was a student at Whatcom Community College.

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