What images stick with the reader will, of course, vary from reader to reader, as will the emotional effects of such imagery. It is fair to say that in The Clearing, Tim Gautreaux has several different styles of writing he toggles between throughout the novel. The novel does have its lyrical moments, although I would not consider this to be the dominant style. When Randolph steps off the train in the first chapter, it is described in a vivid manner. Largely set in the backwoods of Louisiana, Gautreaux makes the setting almost another character, evoking the climate, the animals who live there, the swamp, and the trees. The wet and the mud are two elements that are particularly strong. His descriptions of nature are equivocal. While nature is often a positive quality in literature, it cuts both ways in the novel. The men make their living from the forest, but nature also threatens to overwhelm the men and can turn deadly, as when a snake bites a child.
As is noted in the question, the language can be that of decay and dilapidation, especially when describing the ramshackle buildings of the workers' camp. Again, the tension seems to be between what man can take from nature and what nature tries to take back. Finally, one can see Gautreaux's more lyrical passages as offering a counterpoint to the violence of the novel, which is constant and often brutal. It provides a reprieve, as well as heightens it. This is most obvious in characters who represent goodness and innocence, like the housekeeper May and her son Walter. I don't think you write a novel without a plan and structure, so I believe these levels to the book are intentional and lucid.