Essays, Stories, Adventures, Dreams
Chronicles of a Footloose Forester
By Dick Pellek
What Goes Around Came Around, Again
The passing phases of our lives are marked by words and phrases that come into vogue out of the blue, are repeated often by trendsetters and hipsters, and eventually disappear from the daily vernacular. They may shrink into the background but do not disappear entirely. “What goes around, comes around” was a popular expression a few decades ago, but is seldom heard these days. That is not to say that its meaning is not remembered and understood. Make that its several meanings—because what goes around like a common cold or a political protest movement, comes around again when the physical or social environments are right. Tornados go around in summer months, and come around again the following year. Commercials for new cars go around, and come around again with new models.
A meaning-hungry purveyor of words and expressions in the person of the Footloose Forester was always fond of the expression “what goes around, comes around” because to him it meant more than one thing. To him it connoted the cyclical or regional spread of maladies like influenza or the ebola virus, but it also meant the reoccurrence of shibboleths with historical implications. In addition, the revisitation to famous sites and monuments that were familiar in his past evoked a “what goes around, comes around” kind of response. In that sense, it evoked past episodes re-united with the present.
In one short but personally poignant chronicle of the Footloose Forester, he recalled first seeing specimens of the desert date, Zyzyphus jujuba in the Sind region of Pakistan; had another encounter in the Sahel region of Mali, and finally in a local horticultural nursery in rural Virginia. Today, two healthy jujube trees from that nursery are growing at the side of his house, and a picture of one of them adorns the cover of his third volume of memoirs. Accordingly, he was impelled to label one chronicle, “What Goes Around, Comes Around” and commit it to the pages of a bound book.
Many visual examples of what goes around and comes around again are also found in the books and magazines that he reads. In recent years, he has seen and eventually extracted photos and parts of stories and articles from both Newsweek and TIME magazines. They continue to be vital sources of current news but also provide us with handy archival materials to which we can refer at our own convenience. Sadly, they often provide grim reminders of horrific events whose significance is reinforced by timely photos. For example, a Newsweek photo of the 1998 bombing of the US Embassy in Nairobi, Kenya was a reminder that for a Footloose Forester who sometimes attended meetings in that embassy, that yet another terrorist attack was one more example of what goes around, comes around.
He has never forgotten the Pakistani Taliban attack on St. Dominic’s R.C. Church in Bahawalpur, Pakistan in 1986. Although he had long ago departed Pakistan as a Peace Corps Volunteer in 1966, St. Dominic’s was the church he attended, thus the news reports of the massacre there was an earlier case of what goes around, comes around. The details of the slaughter of churchgoers in Bahawalpur are part of a newspaper account that he keeps in his files.
Likewise, the photo and story of a jetliner hijacked to Moroni, Comoros in 2001 was a “goes around, comes around” story of Islamist fundamentalists perpetrating another act of terrorism. In that hijacking, the plane crashed into the ocean just a few hundred yards offshore and close to the runway. Some people on shore actually swam out to rescue survivors. The photos reminded the Footloose Forester that even in the remote archipelago of the Comoros, his mind was returning to the scene of the crime and to a place where he had conducted field studies. The subsequent news reports testify to yet another episode of “what goes around, comes around.”
Not all haunting memories of events in the past are so gruesome. In our little village of Greenbackville, Virginia there was a time a few years ago that a spate of arson fires had us all wondering what was going on. Over 20 arson fires were committed before the guilty couple was finally identified and arrested. Why is this a “what goes around, comes around” story? Because more than two years later, there, in TIME magazine, was a book cover photo of one of the many old abandoned houses in rural Accomack County, Virginia where we live. All of the arson fires focused on abandoned houses that took place in our county, and not too far away. The book itself was about Accomack County and its infamous arsonists but the cover photo of one of the charred houses was an alarming reminder that, all too often, what goes around, comes around.
Finally, another book with a story about a place visited long ago wraps up this reflectional chronicle. The place was the Changa Manga Plantation north of Lahore, Pakistan, a large hardwood forest of mostly rosewood (Dalbergia sissoo) and sal (Shorea robusta) trees. The Footloose Forester first visited there in 1964 and again in the pages of the book, Foresters of the Raj--on a sunny day in June 2017. Truth is sometimes stranger than fiction, hence when he put down the book with the story of Changa Manga Plantation, he immediately picked up the TIME magazine to discover the book review about his Accomack County. Both the book and the magazine were on his reading schedule for that day and both were at arms length. But he had no idea that it would be a double-barreled volley of “what goes around, comes around.”