Sunday Morning


The snarl of saws and feller bunchers, somewhere in the distance. A great truth comes over him: Trees fall with spectacular crashes. But planting is silent and growth is invisible.

Some days, dawn breaks in Arthurian mists. There are mornings when the chill threatens to kill him, noons when the heat knocks him on his semi-numbed butt. Afternoons so profligate with blue he lies on his back and stares upward until his eyes water. There come mocking and merciless rains. Rain the weight and color of lead. Shy rain, auditioning with stage fright. Rain that leaves his feet sprouting moss and lichen. There were huge, spiked skeins of interwoven wood here once. They will come again.

Sometimes he works alongside other tree slingers, some of whom speak no language he recognizes. He meets hikers who want to know where the forests of their youth have gone. The seasonal pineros come and go, and the hard cores, like him, keep on. Mostly, it’s him and the brute, blank, stripped-down rhythm of the work. Wedge, squat, insert, stand, and boot-tip seal.

They look so pitiful, his tiny Douglas-firs. Like pipe cleaners. Like props for a train set. From a distance, spread across these man-made meadows, they’re a crew cut on a balding man. But each weedy stem he puts into the dirt is a magic trick eons in the making. He rolls them out by the thousands, and he loves and trusts them as he would dearly love to trust his fellow men.

Left alone—and there’s the catch—left alone to the air and light and rain, each one might put on tens of thousands of pounds. Any one of his starts could grow for the next six hundred years and dwarf the largest factory chimney. It could play host to generations of voles that never go to ground and several dozen species of insects whose only desire is to strip their host bare. Could rain down ten million needles a year on its own lower branches, building up mats of soil that grow their own gardens high in the air.

Any one of these gangly seedlings could push out millions of cones over the course of its life, the small yellow males with their pollen that floats across entire states, the drooping females with their mouse tails sticking out from the coil of scales, a look he finds dearer than his own life. And the forest they might remake he can almost smell—resinous, fresh, thick with yearning, sap of a fruit that is no fruit, the scent of Christmases endlessly older than Christ.

Douglas Pavlicek works a clear-cut as big as downtown Eugene, saying goodbye to his plants as he tucks each one in. Hang on. Only ten or twenty decades. Child’s play, for you guys. You just have to outlast us.

~ Richard Powers, from “Douglas Pavlicek” in The Overstory: A Novel (April 3, 2018)


Photo: Biology.unm.edu

Comments

  1. here’s to the return of the forest and all of the life that comes with it –

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Just trying to take in this amazing writing and story of passion! I honour men like him. I love trees. 🌴🎄🌲

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Had to read this more than once. If the rest of the novel is as beautiful as this I must read it.

    “Trees fall with spectacular crashes. But planting is silent and growth is invisible.”

    And how he describes rain, wow…
    And,
    ” Could rain down ten million needles a year on its own lower branches, building up mats of soil that grow their own gardens high in the air.”

    So so so beautiful.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I’ve given up on this book 2x. And keep coming back. Yes, it is beautiful…starkly and purely so.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Miles and three centuries earlier, a pollen-coated wasp crawled down the hole at the tip of a certain green fig and laid eggs all over the involute garden of flowers hidden inside. Each of the world’s seven hundred and fifty species of Ficus has its own unique wasp tailored to fertilize it. And this one wasp somehow found the precise fig species of her destiny. The foundress laid her eggs and died. The fruit that she fertilized became her tomb. Hatched, the parasite larvae fed on the insides of this inflorescence. But they stopped short of laying waste to the thing that fed them. The males mated with their sisters, then died inside their plush fruit prison. The females emerged from the fig and flew off, coated in pollen, to take the endless game elsewhere. The fig they left behind produced a red bean smaller than the freckle on the tip of Douglas Pavlicek’s nose. That fig was eaten by a bulbul. The bean passed through the bird’s gut and dropped from the sky in a dollop of rich shit that landed in the crook of another tree, where sun and rain nursed the resulting seedling past the million ways of death. It grew; its roots slipped down and encased its host. Decades passed. Centuries. War on the backs of elephants gave way to televised moon landings and hydrogen bombs. The bole of the fig put forth branches, and branches built their drip-tipped leaves. Elbows bent from the larger limbs, which lowered themselves to earth and thickened into new trunks. In time, the single central stem became a stand. The fig spread outward into an oval grove of three hundred main trunks and two thousand minor ones. And yet it was all still a single fig. One banyan.

      ~ Richard Powers, The Overstory: A Novel (W. W. Norton & Company, April 3, 2018)

      Liked by 2 people

    • Sawsan; You said it all. Wonderful thinking and writing. Not your average bedtime novel, I imagine 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

    • Christie says:

      ” Could rain down ten million needles a year on its own lower branches, building up mats of soil that grow their own gardens high in the air.” the fir needles that reach the ground also form mats and you can’t imagine how soft it is to sit or walk upon…

      Liked by 3 people

      • I’ve walked in those same needles. It is something like nothing else.

        Liked by 2 people

      • @Christie: I had the priviledge of doing that as a small(ish) kid – it’s not spikey, it’s warm and welcoming, surprisingly so that the image is well kept in my older self…. wonderful!

        Liked by 1 person

        • Christie says:

          @Kiki Glad you had that experience…it is very cushioning, it gives underfoot…We used to walk up a hill into the old growth sit on the moss and needle carpet on the edge of a small clearing in view of a fairy ring and read the Sunday paper…and there is also nothing like laying down to try and see the top of a tree…I’ve always liked this quote by Amelia Earhart, “You haven’t seen a tree until you’ve seen its shadow from the sky.” I haven’t had that trill, yet.

          Liked by 2 people

          • Christie says:

            Sometimes our Siamese cat, Princess would walk along with us to the fairy ring…she passed many years ago…she was almost as light as a loaf of air puffed bread…she was adventures…she choose us as she was a neighbors cat and decided she liked us better, the little boy used to come to the door, “I am here to see my cat, “Princess” We went to talk to his mother (me and at the time my little five year old) we asked if “Princess” could be ours. She said that the cat had made up her mind and btw we fly out in the morning…moving to Fuji…my darling daughters dream came true “Princess” was ours for real 🙂 and forever!

            Liked by 1 person

          • Wonderful!

            Like

  4. Christie says:

    read this on the Amazon page about the book…
    “An Air Force loadmaster in the Vietnam War is shot out of the sky, then saved by falling into a banyan. An artist inherits a hundred years of photographic portraits, all of the same doomed American chestnut. A hard-partying undergraduate in the late 1980s electrocutes herself, dies, and is sent back into life by creatures of air and light. A hearing- and speech-impaired scientist discovers that trees are communicating with one another. These four, and five other strangers—each summoned in different ways by trees—are brought together in a last and violent stand to save the continent’s few remaining acres of virgin forest.

    In his twelfth novel, National Book Award winner Richard Powers delivers a sweeping, impassioned novel of activism and resistance that is also a stunning evocation of—and paean to—the natural world. From the roots to the crown and back to the seeds, The Overstory unfolds in concentric rings of interlocking fables that range from antebellum New York to the late twentieth-century Timber Wars of the Pacific Northwest and beyond, exploring the essential conflict on this planet: the one taking place between humans and nonhumans. There is a world alongside ours—vast, slow, interconnected, resourceful, magnificently inventive, and almost invisible to us. This is the story of a handful of people who learn how to see that world and who are drawn up into its unfolding catastrophe.

    The Overstory is a book for all readers who despair of humanity’s self-imposed separation from the rest of creation and who hope for the transformative, regenerating possibility of a homecoming. If the trees of this earth could speak, what would they tell us? “Listen. There’s something you need to hear.”

    Liked by 3 people

  5. Christie says:

    I weep and my soul bleeds each time I see a clear cut…the land is forever scar-ed… forest life displaced…often men are maimed or die in logging accidents…causalities to the ecosystem, the habitat of animals and insects – which includes the now un-shaded streams, now clogged with debris, the salmon habit destroyed, human eyes, the soul, and physical life forever changed…

    Liked by 3 people

    • Now Un-shaded streams. Clogged with debris. Amazing how you sweep me away the the clear cut site

      Liked by 1 person

      • Christie says:

        There are forest practice laws that protect the salmon spawning areas though “errors” happen in the timber sale clear cut and when found out they are Fined and mitigated to the stream and banks must be fixed…of course before that happens the destruction has taken place…it takes years before the spawning salmon are reestablished…it is sad to drive through a large clear cut area, especially where the cut is on both sides of the road & they don’t clean up the area and often they don’t “replant”…the fires equally heartbreaking…

        Liked by 2 people

  6. Christie says:

    from a distance one can note the different shades of green…coming closer the height difference, the darker green is old growth, the light second growth and often amongest the vivid life of green the death of vast areas,stripped and raped never to be replanted – a visual reminder of such great loss…/// no longer a balance…

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Christie says:

    My life is different from some…In my area, I have my favorite individual, standing trees, (oaks, fir, ponderosa, madrone, walnut, ash, maple, wild dogwood, etc) I feel so privileged to be able to have eyesight and legs that still move as I can stand under those mighty trees, breathing in, touching the bark, picking a fir needle or two down by the river, then bending the needle to release the unimaginable scent of life, smelling the wild flowers, orchids, wood violets, the purple iris, trillium, the bowing fawn lilies, the shooting star, the orange tiger lilies…the open areas of the forest expose so many other swatches of wildfire… /// btw everyone must see the Redwoods…

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Christie says:

    The PNW, California, Inter-mountain west, BC and lands east of the Rockies burn, uncontrollably each year…last fire season, the very gorgeous, sensitive, massive Columbia River Gorge in Oregon suffered an arson fire (a teen who threw lit fireworks down a canyon in the day while on a hike) that impacted millions of people…whose memories can be revisited in mind only as they can’t go back to hike the closed damaged trails where one can no longer see the tree birthed over centuries, the moss, feel the kissing mist, flowers (which can only be found in the CRG), the birds —just charred remains…some of the CRG was thankfully saved..though I weep.( A fire last week popped up in the Eagle Creek of CRG, a hot spot caused still smoldering from the CRG fire)../// a few years ago on vacation my hubby and myself went to go hiking to a place we’d hadn’t been to for a long time we discovered it had been scoured…lost to forest fire…Millions of areas of Trees and forest every year, gone…I’ve seen and smelled forest fire smoke over a thousand miles away from the active fires…I’ve experienced chocking smoked filled air with limited viability in my area several times, face mask if you dare leave your home…/// last June went on vacation where a fire was just being mopped up…the roads where lined with Thank You signs to the Fire Crews…we walked through an area that had recently been reopened we weren’t able to drive through the campground to get to the trail head, so we parked and walked through the ghostly campground a staging area for the fire crews hundred of empty tents, padlocked portable sheds, etc…thankfully the trail with old growth was intact../// .Loss Is Hard…

    Liked by 2 people

  9. I have read every comment and am amazed at the different ways people share their favorite parts. I was going to call out “dawn breaks in Arthurian mists” because I’ve never heard the King’s world phrased like that. I love everything, every different outlook, your readers take. You have great followers, my friend. Fun followers!

    Liked by 2 people

  10. Christie says:

    I am thankful when a cleared area is replanted…

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I’ve seen far too many clearcuts to appreciate this man’s lovely writing, sorry. Reminds me of this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nG46cJktGUo

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I’m a tree person (as I’m a ‘many other things person too)…. and I’ve given much love to books such as Andy Goldsworthy’s and Thomas Pakenham’s Remarkable Trees of the World…. I’m known to have hugged trees, stroked the stones of our home, caressed many flowers and shrubs – it gets me every time.
    As a child I got lost in the woods, more than once – and yet, seeing a large patch of wood cleared off completely, hurts me physically. I have followed films of loggers and I know that every book I read and every page I fill with my writing is part of a tree that was felt; I have an ‘English’ bench made from teak wood, certainly not grown in UK…. I love its grey sheen – and I honestly don’t know what to say to this post (but look how many lines I filled needlessly). What is it with you Dave that makes me always come back to your posts? 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Oh my gosh… this man’s writing… you say you’ve given up twice on reading it, yet still return to it? Do tell, what is it that makes you stop? Curious minds wanna know 😉
    His descriptions are so beautiful… the rain, the mist, the trees… wow.

    Liked by 2 people

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