This was originally posted to: Guemes Island Environmental Trust

The More Things Change

Not long ago a van turned down Section Avenue on Guemes and rolled to a stop near a private dirt road just South of Seaway Hollow Drive. Dave Steffey was there, and related this story to me:

Inside the vehicle were a middle-aged couple in front and, in the back, a much older man and woman. The driver rolled down his window and asked if there was a pond down the dirt road, and would it be possible to walk in to take a look? It seems the old man in the back, a Mr. Knapp, had lived on the island and had brought his wife and son over to see the place of his boyhood in 1908.

Surely the island must have been vastly different in those days, just after its turn-of-the-century clearcut. Hundreds of the seemingly wasteful twenty-foot-high cedar stumps still dot the island. Now blackened after the fire that ravaged Guemes some decades before the second clearcut, they stand as mute and revered niontiments to an ancient climax forest. Some of those cut trees, too massive to haul, were left on the ground by loggers too proud to let them stand.

After about an hour the four visitors returned to their car. When they stopped to thank Dave for his help, the old man, tears in his eyes, was visibly filled with joy. "It's all still there," he said, "all of it. Just as it was when I was young. The house my uncle built, the horse barn, woodshed, privy-after 85 years all unchanged." What a rare and wonderful experience that must have been for him. Hoping to recognize a road, a fence line, or a pond, and unexpectedly coming across his past so beautifully preserved. "Even the curtains in the windows," he said. "Even the curtains!"

In December, not long after Mr. Knapp's visit, Nature's "Storm of the Century" made some unexpected and unwanted changes to the island. Now the giant pulled-up root mass sets the character of the forest floor, and hundred-year-old trees we would all like to have seen stand for at least another century are horizontal. It's my opinion that much of this timber should be left on the ground to form natural nurse trees, to create soil that is at such a premium on our island, and as a reminder of the fury of that storm.

I guess the point this story leads me to is that we must all be surprised when change does not occur. I'm glad that Mr. Knapp got a chance after all those years to step back in time. The sad part of the story, however, is that Mr. Cady, the present owner, recently told Dave that the large trees smashed the old house flat, It's not if there will be change, but when.

-Kit Marcinko, Winter 1991

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