The Orchestra of the Forest

By: Tristan Barley

Screen Shot 2018-11-21 at 10.55.46 AM.pngImagine a world without the legendary composers that defined 
the symphony, such as Beethoven, Mozart and Bach. What would the world be like if we never had Beethoven’s 5thSymphony, Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro or Bach’s Tocatta in D Minor? The world would undoubtedly continue on, persisting in its march forward. Yet, we would certainly have lost something valuable, something beautiful that has not just helped to shape our perceptions of beauty, set a standard of excellence or influenced countless generations, but something that we would never get back. Thoughts such as these pulled at me one wet, dreary late summer weekend as I walked through Hueston Woods State Park in College Corner, Ohio.

Screen Shot 2018-11-21 at 10.56.41 AM.pngHueston Woods, a tract of untouched forest purchased in the 1930s that went on to become a state park, contains a registered national landmark, which is a precious old growth forest. Old growth forests are ancient, complex ecosystems defined by their mature trees, which can be hundreds of years old. These 200 acres of old growth forest are more precious than gold; before European settlers came, these majestic forests were dominant, but now only a fraction remain.

It was through this rare system that, for an hour, I hiked and I listened. I arrived at the trail via car, pulling into the parking lot just as the persistent rain let down, making way for a light, dreary drizzle. In this brief calm, I scurried to the trail, slightly annoyed at the wet day. As I left the parking lot, though, a strange quiet of sorts descended upon me, a silence devoid of cars, of people running about and sirens. This absence was filled with the music of the forest.Screen Shot 2018-11-21 at 10.57.25 AM.png As I walked, slowly and carefully through the woods as not to interrupt, I was overcome by a cacophony of sound. The sprinkling rain tinkled on the leaves of the beeches and sugar maples, a steady drip drip drip. The wind rustled those same leaves, adding a swish to the drip drip drip. A supporting cast of crickets took up the call, chirping to the swish and the drip drip drip. Finally, a single female cardinal tweeted persistently, perhaps at me, with a steady, single tweet of indignation. Screen Shot 2018-11-21 at 10.58.03 AM.pngThe crunch of my boots on the gravel added to this mysterious orchestra, try as I might not to disturb the performance. A moment later, snap. I stepped on an unseen twig, and the cardinal paused like an annoyed conductor. In a world where the old growth forest is becoming more and more rare, I had no right to interrupt what little music it put out these days.

           Screen Shot 2018-11-21 at 10.58.35 AM.pngSo again, I invite you to wonder what the world would be like without Beethoven, Mozart or Bach, what the world would be missing without such masterpieces. Just as importantly, what would the world be like without old growth forests? Without the cardinal leading the orchestra, to the tune of the wind through the trees, the dripping rain and the persistent crickets?



Photos by Tristan Barley.


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