20 Nov



It was a monumental task I had chosen for myself.

I had learned that there were always voids to be filled.

This is true of nature, which “abhors a vacuum”, – – – silence – – – which makes nervous people fill it with chatter, and the business place in which management never has enough people to work on new ideas.

That is where I came in. Management needed a new product and there were no people to work on it. I heard about the dilemma, wet my finger, stuck it in the air, and decided that I should be the one to take the challenge on.

Like our current President, I had no idea how I was going to do it. Unlike our President I had made a commitment and would follow the details through; even if it killed me. We both knew that we had the resources to work on the challenge. As they say, the difference is in the details.

Now – – – finally – – – we get to the title of this essay – – – the forest office.

I knew that I could divide my resources in half; one half of the people taking care of “old business” and the other half taking care of the challenge. So which five people would I select for this monumental task? Old business kept the phone ringing, people asking questions, problems to be fixed. My office allowed no peace and quiet.

Therefore, on a beautiful Saturday morning, I put a small notepad in my pocket along with a pen or two. I drove to Greene, NY, where I had some land. I reached the point on the hilltop where the gravel road ended and the dirt road started.

I made my left hand turn and was facing a downhill slope. Each side of the road was lined with trees. The branches hung high and joined each other to form a verdant tunnel. Easing the car down the road – – – while watching for rocks that could tear out my oil pan – – – I continued on.

I reached the bottom of the slope where a small stream passed through an old culvert. A swamp – – – complete with wild yellow flowers – – – was on my right. A field to my left held a family of three deer, mother and two fawns, that were just visible through the morning fog. A rabbit left his hiding place in the tall grass and scampered across the road. Just as quickly he disappeared in the grass that followed the hedgerow.

Finally I was at my destination; an opening that I had hewed from the forest and leveled with a pick and shovel. I parked my car and walked into the forest.

There it was; my log, my redoubt, my place of solitude, my forest office. I took out my pen and notepad.

Nothing happened!

But that was OK. I hadn’t made anything happen. I asked myself how I should make things happen in my mind. How was I going to make a plan about something I had never done before?

Then it came to me. What were the elements of the task that needed to be accomplished? What were the resources I had at my disposal? What were the time constraints? I wrote these down on three pages; “Task Elements”, “Resources”, and “Time Constraints.”

Then I filled in each page with what I knew about each division.

I sat there looking at what I had written. A warbler sang his song from somewhere high above me. Nothing was happening inside my brain. A mouse scampered through the leaves and I watched him as he disappeared beneath them; then appearing and disappearing with no sense of regularity. As I watched for him I saw a salmon colored newt crawl from beneath a small log. The warbler – – – once again – – – called my attention away from the terrestrial creatures and into the tree tops. However, I could not find where it perched.

The woods grew quiet.

I flipped through the three pages of my notepad.

Nothing happened in my brain!

I heard a scratching coming from someplace behind me. I turned and scanned for the source. It was a baby porcupine – – – a tiny little black thing without any spines, just black fur. I walked over to the tree that it was hanging on to for dear life. It had cute little jet black eyes. Its legs were going a hundred miles an hour but it was not making much headway as it tried to get away from me. I decided to leave it in peace and walked back to my log.

Flipping through the pages – – – once again – – – a connection came to me. Joe was a resource and he was quite capable of handling task number three. With those two items out of the way it cleared my mind of all the combinations and permutations. Some of the clutter of decision making was eliminated. My mind was happy and my heart was exuberant.

It was immediately clear to me that Mike could handle task number one if he had a little more knowledge about what was required. But would there be time for his self-education? I flipped to the page titled “Time Constraints.” It appeared that it might be possible. I pictured Mike; him working on the task. I soon realized the areas that he was weak in. I asked myself “how could Mike teach himself these areas?” It became apparent that he would have to read some books and spend some time with a few experienced people in that field.

Yes! There was time for Mike to become proficient. He had the drive and the will to do it.

I smiled to myself and was quite pleased that everything was working out and getting written down in my little notepad in my forest office. No phones ringing, no people dropping in with questions, no budgets, no distracting worries other than what I was concentrating on.

I turned to see how my little furry friend was doing. He had advanced about ten inches up the tree. I wondered if he was as pleased with his advancement as I was with the progress of my plan.

I noticed that about eight feet beyond him was his mother – – – up in another tree. I decided to turn my back on them so that they would feel more comfortable. I had no idea if they would be more at ease without my human eyes spying on them but it made sense to me.

I will not go on and on about my plan.

All I can add is that my forest office had, again, given me answers to questions about work – – – and life – – – and creatures on the ground – – – and in the trees – – – and in the air.

On my way out of the forest I saw a garter snake, heard the scream of a hawk high above, saw how the forest was recovering from a recent logging operation, heard a deer scamper away from me but only saw the white of its tail flagging its departure, watched some tadpoles in the swamp and a darning fly sitting on a blade of swamp grass.

It was a good day.


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