Let's see....where did I leave off...oh yes, driving through the Sabine National Forest on my journey to Houston.
It was a bright and glorious day as I set out on my 3 1/2 hour trek to Houston. Having driven in under the cover of darkness a few nights before, I had no sense of my surroundings or to what I would bear witness.
The Sabine National Forest is located on the Texas/Louisiana border and covers thousands of gentle rolling acres populated by native pine trees, dogwoods, wild azaleas and other native flowering trees. The pines are soaring and majestic and have provided me, my family and friends with the most magnificent pine cones. What I love most about this forest is the light play as the sun filters through the pines and gently washes the undergrowth and forest floor, blanketed by russet colored pine needles.
As the winding farm road carried me into the forest, I could scarcely believe what lay before me...a forest scarred, burned, twisted, disheveled and discarded, like litter thrown carelessly on the side of the road. I knew Hurricane Rita had dealt a mighty blow to East Texas, but until I saw the forest, I had no barometer to measure how fierce and unyielding the wind, rain and lightening must have been to exact such devastation. I tend to view natural disasters as Mother Nature's way of cleaning house, but did she have to be so vindictive to her children?
I had to stop several times; walk into the forest and lay my hands on the trunks of the fallen. It was as I would imagine a graveyard of dinosaurs might have been.
Normally quiet, save the wind through the pines, the forest now moaned and creaked and bled. Those still standing had trails of thick sap running down their trunks...silent, sticky tears. Standing there, I remembered my mother telling me shortly after the hurricane had passed, the dogwoods and wild azaleas burst into flower, even though it was August and they normally don't bloom until March. Was this unnatural act a memorial or a beacon of hope?
What hurt the most was to see the forest unattended, littered with the dead. Part of me wanted to leave it as is...a lasting memorial. The other part shrieked to remove the carnage from my sight. Standing amidst so much devastation, my spirit was filled with the internal wrestling of fight or flight. Flight won out and I bolted for the safety of my car and headed for the city...for I knew what wreckage would await me there.