John Swincinski

54 x 54 in
In 1988 fires ravaged across northern Wyoming. Nearly one-third of Yellowstone National Park was scorched. Hundreds of thousands of Lodge-pole Pines, their roots and lower trunks no longer viable, toppled in the winds of the volcanic caldera. Laying on the forest floor, the altitude and dry air inhibited their decay. Much of the bark is gone leaving exposed the tree’s solid center that once carried sap and water up and down its towering frame. The surface of the long horizontal masses have taken on a silvery cast that can only come from the process of laying undisturbed in the elements for over 30 years. Near the ends of some logs are scorch marks, the tell-tale sign of the great fire. The logs have taken on a state of being not quite wood or stone. Dead but not decayed. The downfall as it is known, covers much of the Yellowstone forest. In places the crosshatch of fallen timber is so thick that the forest appears impenetrable. Man-made trails that cut through the Yellowstone wilderness wind like a river through the thousands of acres of this downfall. A bear can climb across it all with short hops, leaps, and other displays of acrobatic skill. But man is mostly locked out. If not for the chainsaw, no such recreational trails would exist. For 30-plus years this timber has laid here, and it seems to show no sign of dissolving, disintegrating, or otherwise going anywhere. Perhaps someday the caldera will awaken and spew its ash and mud and maybe in a few million years’ time some of it will eventually become petrified and complete its transformation to stone. Thirty-plus years of lying about – barely a flicker in the span of time.