March 28, 2009 11 AM

Today’s observation is a little different in that I didn’t stop, sit and listen like I normally do.  Instead, I was working with a friend in the woods behind his house in Stratham.  We were cutting logs to be used to grow mushrooms at my ‘farm’.  Jim has 18 acres and we selected a tree far from site of his house and down a couple of hills – much too far to easily carry these logs, but we discovered that only after we cut the tree down.  Jim was on chainsaw duty while I carried the four-foot lengths over my shoulder to the truck.  Each walk up the hill and back took about ten minutes.

When Jim bought his house and land, all of the surrounding acres were all forest until one day a few years ago a developer suddenly started clearing the land.  Soon his house overlooked a subdivision of a dozen, cookie-cutter, bigger-than-reasonable houses.  My walk back and forth to the truck took me fairly close to the property line and I found myself examining several of these houses from the backside.  One family appeared to have kids as apparent from all of the plastic toys spread about the back yard.  Another family had a dog.  Another family liked to grill.  Each house looked the same save for the lonely items left out in the yard or on the porch.  I wondered to myself how much the backyards actually get used. 

The site of these houses troubled me.  Then, at once I realized what disturbed me (besides the obvious).  The forest was full of trees.  It had birds, broken branches, and leaves.  The entire forest floor was covered in leaves.  Abruptly, the forest ended at the subdivision as manicured lawns took over.  This stark demarcation between natural and cultivated struck me as absurd. Bleak houses seemed plopped onto the land with no relation to the landscape, surrounded by manicured lawns, pavement and stop signs and absent trees.  It reminded me of the surreal views from mountaintops where I’ve sat overlooking Phoenix, Arizona marked by green lawns and trees – a sea of green in a vast expanse of desert brown.  The brown and yellow representing fauna and flora that have evolved over millennia to thrive with little water against the green of humankind’s hubris, forcing a fashionable landscape into existence in a place it couldn’t survive without stealing the water from tributaries hundreds of miles away.