Change - the 4th stage

Together, we hike along the narrow path that he laid out on all fours. Knippertz is a ranger employed by the Landesbetrieb Wald und Holz. He and his colleagues saw a unique opportunity after the storm: "We wanted to show what happens when an area like that is left to its own devices. What grows there when humans stay out of it?" They were able to convince the state forestry office to forgo the timber yield for 3.5 hectares, a few tens of thousands of euros after all. "With private owners, that would not have been possible.

Abgestorbener Baum am Kyrillpfad vor blauem Himmel

"For exactly one kilometer, the trail winds. Today, no one has to crawl; visitors can stroll through aisles, over footbridges and small bridges as if through a natural history museum. Knippertz explains to me the waves in which the storm area was recolonized. The first to venture are flowers like foxglove and wood willowherb. Closely followed by shrubs such as elderberry and blackberry. The latter is particularly aggressive, flattening others. The whole thing is a battle for light and water. Then come the pioneers among the trees - ash, birch, willow, and of course spruce. A competitive growth for the best places in the sun begins. Whoever shoots up faster puts others in the shade. Birches and spruces initially make the running. But now, after eleven years without axe and saw, a balance has settled in. Knippertz's eyes light up as he looks over the new forest, from a high vantage point: "Isn't it a wonder how rich in plant and animal species it is?" Kyrill has caused creative chaos.

So, have forest owners learned from the storm's damage? Knippertz shakes his head. Then he replies, "Probably not all of them, we still have some convincing to do! We advised reforestation with tree species that are suitable for their location, such as beech. There were even subsidies for this. But many have opted for rapid growth. So it's spruce again - at high risk." The next hurricane is sure to come.

Ganz kleine Fichte am Kyrillpfad

As we walk along, I wonder what makes the Kyrill-Pfad a place of soul. It inspires me to think about death and new beginnings. About our own transience. About how short the human life span is compared to the long breath of nature. About the fact that some things that seem like the end and the end at first glance are actually transformation, a transition, a wink at eternity. Knippertz points to a trunk at our feet. "Five more years, and it's completely rotten. Inside, tree fungi are at work decomposing it." He points to a plate-sized fungus on the outside of the wood: "That's just the visible fruiting body of a gigantic web inside." Mosses and fungi, sun and rain are the tireless transformers. They transform trees into soil and soil into breeding ground for future trees.

At the end of the trail, the ranger leads me to his personal highlight in the outdoor gallery. He points to a spruce lying on the ground. The bark has burst open on the top, "sunburn," he explains. But the tree's crown is dark green and densely needled branches, sprouting and budding bright green at the tips. "It still wants something," says Stefan Knippertz, "this tree here wants to live at all costs. And it will certainly manage to do so."


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