In the way that you have to break eggs to make an omelet, you have to break ground to build a house.
But it’s one thing to push a ceremonial shovel into the ground of an industrial park or excavate a basement in a subdivision, and another to break ground on a relatively virgin bit of rural land. In the woods, on the lake, away from town, breaking ground happens catastrophically at the gaping mouth of a backhoe, bringing with it, at least to me, a measure of pain.
This past summer, when I wrote the letter to the environmental consultant to plead for our setback variance, I promised to be the person who threw myself between every tree and the chainsaw, every boulder and the backhoe, and every watercourse and the bulldozer.
In short, I promised to be the tree hugger environmental conscience for our land.
I get that things have to be moved, chopped, scraped, and dug. I get that rocks are just rocks and that most of the trees on the actual building site are scrappy things that have only sprouted in the last twenty years. It’s not like we’re cutting down old growth forest here.
But I also know that, unless I question it, construction is going to happen in the most expeditious and obvious Point-A-to-Point-B way.
So when I see that driveway construction will entail dumping 2 million pounds of rock to raise the ground fifteen feet to meet our building site, I will question where that driveway runs. I will ask why it has to go over a gorgeous eight-foot boulder covered in lichen that could be as old as the towering white pines we’ve worked so hard to spare.
And it may be, as it was in the case of the driveway, that we have no choice as to where we put it. Over the boulder it went.
In other cases I expect to get my way. I’ve already tagged one ancient oak near the building site. It shall not be moved.
It seems ironic that because we loved this bit of nature enough to buy it, that we now have to be the ones to desecrate it. But while it’s never an excuse to say, “Well if I didn’t someone else would have,” I at least know that we’ll be doing everything we can to preserve as much as possible.
As I told the environmental consultant, we will be good stewards of this land.