Everything temporary plays a part of forever

Oct. 27—We walked through the woods, topped a ridge and happened into a pecan grove that spanned a weathered flat. Sapling pines and 20-foot sweetgums choked the ground between, but the pecans spoke of a different time. Late October had come, another summer had gone. It had been a dry year, and the leaves had begun to fall.

"This was somebody's pasture, once," The Old Man said, "maybe their front yard too," and a brief search proved it to be so. At one corner of the rise, a long-cold hearth remained amid a tumbledown chimney, an outline of a small home's footings outlined on the ground. The Boy watched the brown leaves fall.

"That seems like a lot of work for nothing," he said. "They must have worked hard to clear this land. They'd have spent Christmases and birthdays in the home. Now it's all gone."

"Well, it's not all gone," The Old Man said. "You can still see where the old house was."

"You know what I mean," The Boy said, aggravated.

The Old Man laughed.

"I know," he said, "I know what you mean. But it was here for them when they were here for it. Nothing lasts forever, anyway."

He walked around the small rectangle the cabin had left in the earth. Presently he stopped and pulled up the corner of an old, burned-out timber, then held it up to the light.

"They built this out of chestnut," he said. "That's probably what drew them to this flat in the first place. You never saw how big the chestnut trees were, back before the blight wiped them out everywhere. One or two chestnuts would have shaded this whole hilltop. That would have meant they could clear it with a lot less work. The pecans would have been growing wild in the river bottom, then just like they do now. After they'd cleared this field, they probably walked the river bottom and dug these up as saplings, these big pecans growing here now."

"And now they're all gone," The Boy said. "It was all for nothing."

"Whoa now," The Old Man said. "That's taking yourself pretty seriously."

"What do you mean?" The Boy asked, hurt.

"Well, they lived here long enough for the pecans to get a good start," The Old Man said, "and there's no reason to assume they weren't here a long time after that. Now they're gone, that's true, but you didn't expect them to live forever, did you? But the pecans are still here, and the squirrels enjoy them, and they're here for us to enjoy. The squirrels eat most of the pecans, and we'll eat some of the squirrels, and the hawks and foxes eat some of the squirrels, and the trees are here and pretty to look at."

The Old Man trailed his hand around one big pecan's trunk.

"It's all about perspective," he went on. "If you go through life thinking everything you do is meant to last forever, you'll drive yourself crazy with worry. That how you come to have everything you think might happen in the future accordion down on top of you at once 'til you can't breathe.

"When everything around you is electric and glass and concrete, it's easy to lose perspective. That's why it's important to get out in the woods as often as you can, so it's easier to see everything is temporary in its own way, the concrete and electricity and glass too. In that way, though, it's something that can be a small part of forever."

Kevin is the weekend edition editor for the Daily Journal. Contact him at