I start with the opening lines from Lewis
How will the legend of the age of trees
Feel, when the last tree falls in England?
When the concrete spreads and the town conquers
The country’s heart....
These lines, penned in 1938, presciently peer into our day and into my mind. When I lament the fixation of children today on Wii, the teens on their smartphones, and the college students on their iPods, and me on my omnipresent and omniscient iPhone, I wonder how disconnected we all have become from nature.
Lewis wonders if it's not only an alienation from nature but also from the certain stories. Has our mastery over nature through science and its scion, technology, not actually mastered us, by muting our essential connection with nature and thereby silencing the stories that nature inspires?
The questioning children, “What was a chestnut?
Say what it means to climb a Beanstalk,
Tell me, grandfather, what an elm is.
What was Autumn? They never taught us.”
Because, as Lewis points out, there is something almost magical--and certainly something divine--imbedded as an act of ongoing creation in the forests and in the mountains. I know this as I go walking among the hills and the trees of Chico's Bidwell Park.
And as the band Future of Forestry celebrated last night, in a glorious, wall-of-sound Christmas paean of praise, "Joy to the World," it is during this season, this time of celebrating God's coming and dwelling with us in human flesh, that "heaven and earth shall sing."
Just this morning, in an unrelated context, I read Psalm 50, verse 2 that describes the God who "shone forth from Zion" as "the zenith of beauty" (50:2). It is in nature where often I see God's beauty, where I find myself in a return to that unmitigated glory of original creation.
In the just-published Cambridge Companion to C. S. Lewis, Michael Guite finds a linking of Lewis's poetry and contemporary "deep ecology," where, Lewis presents that, through nature, and as we are redeemed in Christ, we become connected with nature's profound, primary truths. Lewis concludes his poem by wondering if, this industrial, technological age hasn't lost connection with the rest of creation and thus with something poignant and essential.
Of goblins stalking in silky green,
Of milk-sheen froth upon the lace of hawthorn’s
Collar, pallor in the face of birchgirl.
So shall a homeless time, though dimly
Catch from afar (for soul is watchfull)
A sight of tree-delighted Eden.In sum: Lewis poses just the right question for us, What will be the future of forestry?