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)

Hope. And Hopeless.

Hope…and,

[Read more…]

Guess.What.Day.It.Is?


Notes:

  • The two last remaining female northern white rhinos graze at a conservancy north of Nairobi. The only male northern white rhino in the world died in Kenya at the age of 45, leaving the fate of the subspecies in the hands of science. (Photo by Tony Karumba, Agence France-Presse, wsj.com March 20, 2018)
  • Background on Caleb/Wednesday/Hump Day Posts and Geico’s original commercial: Let’s Hit it Again

Monday Morning Wake-Up Call


Photo: Matt Cowell (via Cheetah Camp). “Got into this mass/pod/gathering of hippo in the southern Serengeti – as the river was drying up, so these animals amassed together in a soup of old water and faeces. It was interesting to note that despite there being over a hundred grouped together, there was little friction and there seemed to be a quiet patience and understanding, all were waiting for the rains, not just for the river to rise, but also the grasses to flush again on the plains so they didn’t have to wander so far at night for food. Until then each was forced to wait, and while waiting so use their neighbour as a leaning post as they lazed through the hot hours of the day…”

T.G.I.F.: It’s been a long week


Source: Newthom

T.G.I.F.: It’s been a long week


Lions rested at the National Zoo in San Salvador, El Salvador. (Marvin Recinos, Agence France, wsj.com, February 22, 2018)

so this was obviously a devastating and silent moment

The whale on the left is an adult female. The one on the right is her male escort. We were on our way to Roca Partida when we heard that the female’s calf had been attacked by a few killer whales. When we got there, the mother was inconsolable. The male was trying to comfort her by touching her gently, but it was useless. Some of you may already know this, but it’s only the male whales who sing (while mating), so this was obviously a devastating and silent moment. The man in the photograph is my father.”

~ @rodrigofriscione, Roca Partida, Revillagigedo Archipelago

 

Walking Cross-Town. And Recycling.

My right eye is pulled down and right, to the gutter on 42nd street. A half-eaten sandwich, a bite out of a slice of yellow American cheddar cheese, and its wrapper moist from Italian dressing. A few feet further up, a Bic Pen with its partially chewed blue cap, a cigarette butt and a flyer for Chinese take-out.

This discarded potpourri waits for the next big rain, or the morning sweepers to push it down from one storefront to the next and to the next, when it eventually drops down a street drain, bumping along the dark tunnels, and ending in the Hudson River, where a bottom feeding catfish nibbles on it.

I’m rushing (again) to catch the 6:10 Metro-North home.  I can’t explain it: the mind, my mind, that is.  It’s locked on trash.

Last night, I tossed an empty box of Eggo Frozen Waffles into the trash can in the kitchen. My eyes scan the trash, as my tongue works its way across my lips, lips lightly coated from Log Cabin Maple Syrup.

“Why isn’t this paper in the recycling bin?”

“What paper?”

“All of the paper that should be in the recycling bin.”

“Because it’s soiled.”

Soiled? I dig down. I find unsoiled paper, an empty plastic stick deodorant push-up, zip-lock baggies and empty envelopes.  I toss them into the recycling bin.

I dig down to the bottom for one last pass and my hands land on raw, moist chicken fat. [Read more…]

Blue Spring is a sacred place

I don’t belong here.

Walking the wooden path of Blue Spring State Park next to the clear shallow waters, I am a trespasser in the habitats of the West Indian Manatees who winter here. I walk among the cabal palms and nature’s stillness disturbed only by the distant roar of an engine somewhere above and other tourists who have come to see the manatees inch their way forward into the hot spring where they pause, reverently it seems, over the opening from deep in the earth below.

Blue Spring is a sacred place.

So gracefully does the Manatee approach the spring head, the deep hole through the limestone that pours 111 million gallons of water per day from deep below the earth’s surface, enough for every resident of greater Orlando to drink fifty gallons of water a day. The manatee knows nothing of nearby Orlando. Nothing about Epcot or Disney World. Nothing of the Holy Land theme park. Nothing of technology, malls, or vacations. She lives where she is . . . in this special place where she spends her winters to stay warm by the heated water of Blue Spring.

Her movements seem effortless, so fluid and gentle, like the water around her. Her huge flat tail, like a leaf fluttering in a soft breeze, inches her upstream toward the place where the earth is refreshed by the natural hot tub, before the water from deep below the surface cools as it flows downstream to replenish the river. Slowly, very slowly, she moves to the edge of the black oblong opening, this hole in the earth, the spring head, the epicenter of the green pool at the head of the river where she lives. Her tail stops moving. She stays very still and bows her head, like the Virgin Mary pondering the mystery of an ever-virginal Incarnation.

The trespassers get to see this. We can only see it if we push away the noisy culture we have brought to this place; push away the interruptions of a gathering crowd of people taking on cell phones, laughing, and loudly speaking to their fellow tourists as though they were at the mall, cruising past the mannequins in the shop windows or stopping by a town for an hour or two on a cruise. Instead this is where the manatees live more naturally than we.

The manatees have no enemies. None but us.

~ Gordon C. Stewart, excerpt from Be Still!: Departure from Collective Madness (January 23, 2017)


Notes:

I heard and then began to feel, in my chest, a deep rhythmic whooshing

A few years ago in a forest in northeast India, I heard and then began to feel, in my chest, a deep rhythmic whooshing. It sounded meteorological, but it was the wingbeats of a pair of great hornbills flying in to land in a fruiting tree. They had massive yellow bills and hefty white thighs; they looked like a cross between a toucan and a giant panda. As they clambered around in the tree, placidly eating fruit, I found myself crying out with the rarest of all emotions: pure joy. It had nothing to do with what I wanted or what I possessed. It was the sheer gorgeous fact of the great hornbill, which couldn’t have cared less about me.

The radical otherness of birds is integral to their beauty and their value. They are always among us but never of us. They’re the other world-dominating animals that evolution has produced, and their indifference to us ought to serve as a chastening reminder that we’re not the measure of all things. The stories we tell about the past and imagine for the future are mental constructions that birds can do without. Birds live squarely in the present. And at present, although our cats and our windows and our pesticides kill billions of them every year, and although some species, particularly on oceanic islands, have been lost forever, their world is still very much alive. In every corner of the globe, in nests as small as walnuts or as large as haystacks, chicks are pecking through their shells and into the light.

~ Jonathan Franzen, from Why Birds Matter, and Are Worth Protecting (NatGeo, January 2018)


Photo of Great Hornbill by Roham Sheikholeslami

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