“O’ wad some powr the Giftie gie us,
to see oursels as ithers see us.”
from “To a Louse” by Robert Burns
It’s no secret that I love Roundrock. Being among its trees. Smelling the tang of the oak leaves. Contesting with the cantakerous lake. Cutting branches to make paths and firewood. Seeing the critters and finding new plants. Pouring water and affection on the planted trees. The round rocks. The campfires. The floating hours. The fallen snags. The green leaves. The cracking ice.
There is no finer place on earth, of course, and while not much has been done with it, the potential to make it a forest garden only awaits my hand.
When my truck passes into the trees that mark our boundary, my eyes are drawn deep into the familiar shadows. I want to see it all. I love to see it all. And though I see what is there, I suspect my vision is colored by my affection.
I often tell myself that the next time I visit Roundrock, I need to look at it as though it is the very first time I am seeing it. And furthermore, I should try to look at it as someone without a vast amount of emotional (and financial) investment in it. I want to see what Roundrock would look like to a complete stranger.
Well, not a complete stranger. I specifically wonder what you would think the first time you came to Roundrock. I wonder if your expecations — based on what you glean from my feverish writing and the selective photos I post on this blog — would come close to what you actually find upon seeing my little bit of forest on the edge of the Missouri Ozarks.
I can never put myself in that frame of mind because as soon as I arrive I fall into my reverie. So I have to rely on two things: the comments actual visitors have made about Roundrock and my febrile imagination of how you would see it upon your first visit.
I don’t think I’ve met all of the people who have been to my woods. As I’ve discussed several times before, there has been evidence of interlopers. None of these folk has stopped to chat and tell me what they think of my woods, but others have. When I had the USDA man out to look at my cantankerous lake, he commented on what a very nice setting I had for a lake. That was nice. And my good neighbor who has taken it upon himself to mow my road once confessed that he and his wife sometimes drive down to our dam and sit by our lake in the early evenings because it is so pretty. That unbidden compliment was also especially nice.
But that’s all I have in terms of testimonials. And so I must fall back on my imagination. My imagination of your first impression. Of course, you are a kind person, and you would only say nice things to me. But beneath your cordial and gracious veneer, just what exactly are you thinking? I think I can sum it up in one word.
Roundrock looks scruffy.
First of all, it’s hardly a forest. These young pole trees barely constitute a forest. Sure, they’re dense, but they’re not much more than scrub. Admit it. And all those low, dead branches. They block the view into the deep trees. And what’s all this clutter on the ground? Branches and blackberry canes and assorted shrubbery and fallen snags. And what is it with all of these snags? It looks like something terrible must have happened here once.
As for these plantations, well, they’re pretty pathetic. Those pecans are hardly worth discussing. The few that seem alive are mostly lost in the scrub that is growing around them and overtaking them. This ground beneath my feet crunches when I walk. How can you expect to grow pecan trees in gravel? And you call this a pine plantation. First of all, it’s too small. And second, most of these things you call trees could be crushed by a passing bunny. You shouldn’t use the word “plantation” to describe this mess for a another decade or so. Okay?
And what’s with this road? Is there supposed to be grass growing in a road? How do you even know where you’re going if you can’t see the road? Don’t you think you should cut back some of these branches that scrape your truck every time you drive by? And what about all of these trees growing so close to your road. Aren’t you afraid one of them is going to fall across your road some day? And while we’re at it, don’t you think all these piles of fallen trees pushed into the forest beside the road are just a little bit, um, ugly? You know, a ground fire might just be a good thing for cleaning this place up a bit.
And I know you’ve talked about cutting some paths, but I haven’t seen them. I was expecting an obvious trail, lined with stones maybe, and covered with wood chips to cushion my feet. I don’t think pushing your way through waist-high grass constitutes walking on a trail. And all these low branches. I may as well be in the deep woods.
As for your lake. C’mon! Get real! This thing is depressing. The muddy puddle that has collected at the base of the dam is no more than a pond (and don’t think I’d ever go swimming in it!). As for the rest of your lakebed — it’s covered with grass for heaven’s sake. You may as well plant trees here instead of in that gravel bed. Do you really think that you can throw enuf Bentonite into this sad bowl of land in one human lifetime to seal all of the leaks and make a water tight lake? Give it up, man!
And you tell me you have another 40 acres over in the next county? Don’t you think you ought to concentrate on one instead of spreading your time and effort like you do? C’mon, man. Think!
That is a nice white oak tree there, though. Big old thing. Too bad you don’t have more of these. That would be a real forest! Let’s just sit here in these chairs under this canopy of leaves for a while so you can recover from your disappointment. Well, this chair is comfortable, and the breeze is pleasant enuf. Nice how you can see the sunlight glinting off the water through these trees. And look, there’s that turtle in the water, coming up for air again. That’s cute.
And look at all of these nifty round rocks you have collected. There must be hundreds of them in your forest. Maybe thousands even. That would be pretty cool, to spend a lifetime finding them and giving them away as gifts, when you can bear to part with them. And that sandstone there has a nice color. I see what you mean about wanting to build your house with it.
And I suppose with a little judicious cutting you could make this forest a bit more appealing to the eye, couldn’t you? I mean, if you take out those three trees right there, that whole area would be improved. Wow, 80 acres, though. That would be a lot of work to improve your timber stand. I guess you’d never be bored here, would you?
And you say you have three campfire rings here? You could roast a lot of weenies here over the years. And you’d never run out of firewood, would you? Hey, was that a blue tailed skink I just saw run under that log? I thought you made them up. Look at those turkey vultures circling overhead. Do you suppose they’re considering making a meal of us?
It’s too bad you can only get down here for a few hours once or twice a month. I’ll bet you’re missing a lot of great observations. And chances to straighten things up a bit. And enjoy these comfy chairs and this breeze and the piping of those frogs and the call of the hawks and the gobble of the turkeys and how delicious plain water must taste after a long, hot hike.
You know, these rose-colored glasses aren’t so bad.
Signature and date
- Prickly pear cactus blooms.
- Canada goose molt is at its peak.