The Inevitability of Buckthorn

People I meet at The Springs often ask: “Where did IT come from?”, referring to the buckthorn that grows there in dense thickets. I go only halfway attempting to explain it’s origins and uses leaving off the underlying causes and powers that be.

“History is the life of nations and of humanity. To seize and put into words, to describe directly the life of humanity or even of a single nation, appears impossible.” Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace Second Epilogue, Chapter 1

The reasons given for why buckthorn was imported leave unexplained the causes that put into motion the people who brought it here. In a recent post I claimed to have “been to the mountaintop“, and I just returned from a new and thrilling literary mountaintop, “War and Peace“, that has given me new insight as to why I get out of bed at 5:30am on a cold winter morning to cut buckthorn.

“As with astronomy the difficulty of recognizing the motion of the earth lay in abandoning the immediate sensation of the earth’s fixity and of the motion of the planets, so in history the difficulty of recognizing the subjection of personality to the laws of space, time, and cause lies in renouncing the direct feeling of the independence of one’s own personality. But as in astronomy the new view said: “It is true that we do not feel the movement of the earth, but by admitting its immobility we arrive at absurdity, while by admitting its motion (which we do not feel) we arrive at laws,” so also in history the new view says: “It is true that we are not conscious of our dependence, but by admitting our free will we arrive at absurdity, while by admitting our dependence on the external world, on time, and on cause, we arrive at laws.”

In the first case it was necessary to renounce the consciousness of an unreal immobility in space and to recognize a motion we did not feel; in the present case it is similarly necessary to renounce a freedom that does not exist, and to recognize a dependence of which we are not conscious.”  Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace, Second Epilogue, Chapter 12

I see now that it was inevitable that I should do battle against buckthorn. Growing up as the fifth of ten children I became acutely aware of the difference between justice and arbitrary will. From the war on drugs to the 9/11 wars, my perception of injustice inflamed me to impassioned protest; alas, to no avail. Thus the opportunity to fight the injustice of an oak woodland choked by that miscreant tree, has inevitably led me to direct my thwarted love for justice to fighting invasive species. And now I am hooked on the immediate, positive, feedback I get from destroying buckthorn. Yes, I’ve learned to love my servitude; I have no choice.

I was compelled by space, time and causes to cut buckthorn at The Springs this past Thursday and Friday (Dec. 5-6) and it seemed there was no choice but to cut at the buckthorn alley. Thus, driven by forces beyond reason and consciousness, we gassed up chainsaws and transformed a thicket (see the area marked in blue below).


Here is how it looked before Dick Jenks and I started cutting and Andy Buchta started piling.



And here is the view Wednesday after we quit.




As I tried to warm up in my truck, Ben Johnson arrived and we had a most agreeable time touring The Springs and dreaming out loud.


Colder weather was forecast for Friday so I stopped at REI on the way home to pick up some hand and foot warmers. Then, after a quick dinner of rice and beans, I went to the basement to clean the equipment and sharpen the chains; I had no choice.

Friday we were back at it again and Dick told me of his youth growing up on a dairy farm, giving a brief history of the demise of the family farm, which was inevitable. Dick didn’t need any hand warmers; he grew up on a farm.

The views below are: looking north towards the Ottawa Lake visitor center, looking east, and looking southeast down the buckthorn alley.




And after…




I was prepared for the cold and not surprised either by the beauty of the setting sun, moon, planets and stars.









Inevitably, during the winter I often have the place to myself, and I appreciate that.

See you at The Springs!

4 thoughts on “The Inevitability of Buckthorn

  1. Pingback: We’re Not Alone | Scuppernong Springs Nature Trail

  2. Indeed, you were born for this work. As the Bard put it, “Our wills and fates do so contrary run
    That our devices still are overthrown;
    Our thoughts are ours, their ends none of our own.”:

  3. Pingback: Solstice Fires | Scuppernong Springs Nature Trail

  4. Pingback: A Cold Day at The Springs | Scuppernong Springs Nature Trail

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