The First Tree To Fall

Letters to the Editor: Returning to the Sierra Nevada — a reporter took these readers on a journey of wilderness and hardship

By Tim Lister

Published: Friday, November 20, 2012 at 04:20 PM.

Falls of the First Tree

The fall of the first tree is always the most touching of celebrations in any forest, as it is in this one. It is always a joyous occasion because one or the other tree is cut down to celebrate a victory achieved, to be replaced by another soon

It is also, almost invariably, a sad event. These two facts are not unrelated, and they go together. There are as many ways as there are ways to make a tree fall, and the particular way is not necessarily the most beautiful or poetic or even the most important.

It is, perhaps, the most powerful. When a tree is cut down – not by a felling ax, but by an experienced hand – it is not because of a personal vendetta and a desire to see you or your child die (such a thing is, almost always, a myth), but because it is time for the tree to die. It is time for the tree to die because as its root systems fall and its branches sag to the ground, as the trunk of the trunk contracts and its leaves fall, its life is finished.

It turns out that the first tree fell two years ago today. It was a Douglas fir, and it dropped after a day of spectacular sunsets on the Sierra Nevada on September 30. It was the first tree to fall of its species on the mountains, and it did not fall from a position of strength or with an explosive force of personality. Nor did it fall because of a storm, nor because a human hand was holding a knife. It fell because the human hand felled it.

The Douglas fir is a magnificent tree. For the most part, however, it is only majestic. The Douglas fir is an oak, a birch, a pine and a spruce. It is the

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