Seeing I had never walked this path before, Norma Hunter pointed out to me that you can now hear the birds.

Being in Huntly, that didn’t seem too unusual, but as Hunter’s lifted intonation suggested, to hear the birds up on Battlehill, that was something new and unusual – to this generation, at least.

On my first, maybe second day in town, checking out at the supermarket, the young clerk decided to share his views with me about “what was happening” in town, namely, to his beloved forest up on Battlehill. Clearing a large section of the conifer forest for a host of reasons ranging from ecological to development-inspired, the crown of Battlehill does look like an apocalyptic devastation upon first viewing. Factoring in that for a generation and a half that densely lush forest had been familiar, if not intimate, stomping grounds for friends, lovers, and families, the sentiment expressed is understandable. 

But looking at this from a time span that is greater than our own, this forest has been felled before, more than once, with the most recent within this last century. As was then, as is now, the hill was replanted by the people who live in the area. Guided by the tenacity of Hunter, along with a small army of volunteers, the reforestation began as oaks and other hardy trees were planted into a labyrinth pattern. As a gesture towards the not to distant future, the tree labyrinth will be a park area that the next several generations can take pride in when the trees begin to mature.

But scaling even further on a timeline beyond our immediate experiences, this felling uncovered human settlements in the form of round hut posts currently believed to be dating back some 4000 years. Further tests will have to be done, but for now, by the naked eye one can see shelters were built over top of older ruins through the centuries, and how far back no one can confirm quite yet. There is an immeasurable wonder in acknowledging a geological sense of time, and a sheer awe in standing on top of it, listening to the birds.