There’s something you need to hear…

When I needed to escape the digital-utopian future, I’d head up into the hills. I was not, then, particularly attuned to the magic of trees. But it doesn’t take great sensitivity to be stunned into silence by redwoods — the sight, sound, and smell of those forests, which feel to so many people like holy places.

One day, up near Skyline Road, I came across a tree the width of a house and the length of a football field. I would learn later that this single living thing was almost as old as Christianity. It dwarfed every other trunk on that ridge. As I looked at it, I began to realize that all the trees I’d been walking through were in fact no more than a hundred years old. This one tree had escaped the clearcutting that had built and rebuilt San Francisco. And the forest that it came from must have been, compared to the one I was standing in, as the OED is to a pocket dictionary. When I went back down to Silicon Valley that evening, I had the seed for a story…

When a person says, “I live in the real world,” they generally mean that they live in the artificially created social world, the human-made world that is hurtling toward a brick wall of its own making. This is what I’d ask the critics of the literature of extra-human awe: Which is more childish, naïve, romantic, or mystical: the belief that we can get away with making Earth revolve around our personal appetites and fantasies, or the belief that a vast, multi-million-pronged project four and a half billion years old deserves a little reverent humility? …

Tree-consciousness is a religion of life, a kind of bio-pantheism. My characters are willing to entertain a telos in living things that scientific empiricism shies away from. Life wants something from us. The trees say to each of these people: There’s something you need to hear…

A friend came to visit me here in my home in the Smokies. Despite the winter turbulence that whipped the jet stream around like a jump rope, making for 80-degree days in February and polar-vortex March nights 20 degrees colder than average, spring was creeping back in. The first ephemerals were rising everywhere through last year’s leaf litter: hepatica, trailing arbutus, star chickweed, spring beauties. I stopped on the trail where we were walking and pointed out the crown of a maple infused in red, like a blurry watercolor.

My friend, who’d grown up surrounded by these trees, was astonished. “Maples have flowers?”

Yes. They’ve been flowering every spring, for the last hundred million years. They flowered in every year you’ve been alive. And with luck, they’ll flower for a few years yet to come.

~ Richard Powers, excerpts from Here’s to Unsuicide: An Interview with Richard Powers by Everett Hammer (Los Angeles Review of Books, April 8, 2018)

Powers new book: The Overstory: A Novel was published this month.

Photo: imgfave (via goodmemory)


  1. A tribute for which the trees would be proud. Glorious!

    Liked by 3 people

  2. this gave me chills. wonderful.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. “Maples have flowers?” Makes me wonder what else I’ve been missing as I’ve been hurtling toward a brick wall of my own making.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Reblogged this on It Is What It Is and commented:
    The amazing magic of trees … they will be there long after we are gone!!


  5. I didn’t know Maples had flowers. I have yet to see this.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. montanalulu says:


    Liked by 2 people

  7. montanalulu says:

    This is from a post by Linda S. Masterson on facebook:


    This is a photo of John Kimmey, my very Dear Friend and life partner for a time. He was companion to the last of the four Hopi prophets, Grandfather David Monongye, for many years.

    He told me this story. (You can read it yourself, as it forms a chapter in a wonderful book, THE SECRET LIFE OF PLANTS.) When John was at Hotevilla at Hopi during an especially scorching summer, visiting with Grandfather David, he felt inspired to walk out off the mesa around midday and found himself drawn to what sounded like singing in the distance.

    He came upon Titus, a Hopi farmer, singing to his wilted corn plants, encouraging them with Hopi words for these ideas, “I am here with you, my children. Yes, this is a hard time, but think how it will be when the rain does come. And, in the mean time, I am here with you in all that you are living.” The Hopi farmer explained to John that all Hopi corn and food is “sung-to.” The purpose of the “singing to” is to affirm the unity of all our relations.
    Mother Earth and All My Relations, I am singing to you — a song of kindness and courage and upliftment. We are all in a time of trial, with many life-denying things telling us to lose heart, to give up, to give in to the shallow mediocrity and vain clamorings around us.
    Hear this song of my heart: I am a child of Creator, endowed with the power to live a life of magnificent alignment with all that is good and wholesome and true. I am singing my soul song, sending encouragement to All My Relations.
    This is my heartsong. This is my reality.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Wow, a good read.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Trees hold such beautiful ancient energy within them, I hug them just out of respect!! ☘☘🍀☘

    Liked by 2 people

  10. I have more than one photo of myself standing just as this woman is, hugging a giant Sequoia. Feeling its heartbeat, syncing mine to its own.

    Liked by 1 person

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