Specimens Collected at the Clear Cut


1. Wild currant twig flowering with cluster of rosy microgoblets.

2. Wild iris, its three landing platforms, purple bleeding to white then yellow in the honey hollows, purple veins showing the direction to the sweet spot.

3. Dogwood? Not what I know from the northeast woods, the white four-petaled blossom marked with four rusty holes that make its shape a mnemonic for Christ hanging on the cross. This one, six-petaled, larger, whiter, domed seedhouse in the center, no holes on the edges, shameless heathen of the northwest forest that flaunts its status as exhibitionist for today.

4. Empty tortilla chip bag.

5. Empty Rolling Rock can. Empty Mountain Dew bottle. Empty shotgun shell. Beer bottle busted by shotgun shell, blasted bull's-eye hanging on alder sapling.

6. One large bruise four inches below right knee, inflicted by old-growth stump of western red cedar, ascent attempted through the relic was taller and wider than me, debris field skirting a meter high at its base, wet and punky; nonetheless, I made my try, eyes on a block of sodden wood, reddened by rain, fragrant as a cedar closet here in the open air, the block of my interest wormed through (pecked through?) with tunnels diameter of a pencil. How man decades, how man centuries, of damage and invasion the tree had survived! But the stump felled me, left me with its stake on my claim and jubilation to see that nothing of this ruin was mine, mine only the lesson that the forest has one rule: start over making use of what remains.

7. One hunk of dead Douglas fir, gray as driftwood, length of my forearm, width of my hand, woodgrain deformed into swirls, eddies, backflows, and cresting waves, a measure of time, disturbances that interrupted linear growth to make it liquid as stream flow.

8. Lettuce lung (Lobaria pulmonaria), leaf lichen, upper-side dull green, turns bright green in rain, lobed, ridged surface with powdery warts, underside tan and hairy with bald spots, texture like alligator skin, sample attached to twig of Douglas fir falls at my feet on trail to Lookout Creek. Day five, re-sampling the site, t.i.d.

9. Four metaphors for the forest. Plantation trees: herringbone tweed. Old-growth trees: medieval brocade. Clear cut: the broken loom. Clear cut five years later: patches on the torn knees of jeans.

10. Skat. Pellets the size of Atomic Fireballs, hot candy I loved as a child. This, more oval. Less round. Not red. But brown. Specimen dropped by Roosevelt elk savoring the clear-cut's menu of mixed baby greens. One pellet broken open to reveal golden particles. Light that traveled from sun to grass to gut to ground to mind. Forest time makes everything round, everything broken, a story of the whole.


Alison Hawthorne Deming, Rope, Penguin Books, 2009.