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)

Sit down. Shut up. Pay attention. Repeat, hundreds of times over.

I found that trees are full of sound. Wind reveals the architecture of branches and leaves, and every tree has its own wind sound, emerging from the particularities of its physiology. For example, the Ponderosa pine trees in Colorado sound different from the same species in California. Each has needles adapted to the local environment, so each sounds different when the wind blows. Broad-leaves trees are likewise diverse in their voices. City trees have rumbles of buses and trains running through them, changing the form of their wood. Birds sing from branches and insects gnaw on inner wood. Then there are tree sounds that are too high for our ears, but by listening with sensitive microphones I heard water pulsing through branches and ultrasonic clicks of distress in drought-stricken twigs. These sounds combined with the voices of market vendors working in the trees’ shade, birds singing amid traffic noise, and surf sucking at palm roots on an eroding beach. Sound is a great way into tree lives: it passes around and through solid barriers, revealing what our eyes cannot see.

~ David George Haskell, in an interview by Caspar Henderson titled: David George Haskell recommends the best books on Trees (fivebooks.com, July 13, 2017)


Notes:

  • Other notable statements in this interview by David George Haskell: “Smelling the soil, talking to other people, holding an acorn in your hand, coming to know the sounds of birds and trees: these have great power once we wake to them, partly because they are such multi-sensory activities, engaging mind and emotion… (Yet) Our modern dependence on trees is mostly hidden from our senses. We don’t hear the rain passing through forest canopies on its way to the reservoir. We don’t smell the wood pellets and coal chunks that power our computers and homes. The wood that frames our houses, holds up our furniture, and gives us paper arrives with signs of its ecological history purged. So we imagine that we’ve transcended our ancestors’ close relationship with trees. But this is illusion. There is no good future for Homo sapiens without forests. Yet forests are in crisis. We live in an age of great diminishment. In just the first dozen years of this millennium, 2.3 million square kilometres of forest were lost – cut, burned, drowned, desertified – yet only 0.8 million regrew or were replanted.
  • Photo: François Vigneron with Four in a Square (via Newthom)

 

Drip. Drip. Drip.

airconditioning

“There you are, turning the ignition of your car,” he writes. “And it creeps up on you.” Every time you fire up your engine you don’t mean to harm the Earth, “let alone cause the Sixth Mass Extinction Event in the four-and-a-half billion-year history of life on this planet”. But “harm to Earth is precisely what is happening”. Part of what’s so uncomfortable about this is that our individual acts may be statistically and morally insignificant, but when you multiply them millions and billions of times – as they are performed by an entire species – they are a collective act of ecological destruction. Coral bleaching isn’t just occurring over yonder, on the Great Barrier Reef; it’s happening wherever you switch on the air conditioning. In short, Morton says, “everything is interconnected”.

~ Alex Blasdel, ’A reckoning for our species’: (Timothy Morton) the philosopher prophet of the Anthropocene (The Guardian, June 17, 2017)


Photograph: Residential house in Shinagawa, Tokyo by Jan Vranovský, 2016 @ Parallel World. Jan Vranovský (*1986, Prague) is a Czech born architect, graphic designer and photographer, currently living in Tokyo.

We’re on “The Road”.

manilla-storm-garbage-pollution

A man collects recyclable materials from floating garbage washed into Manila after Tropical Storm Nida dumped 12 inches of rain on the Philippines.


Notes:

  • Title Credit Reference to “The Road“: “Cormac McCarthy’s tenth novel, The Road, is his most harrowing yet deeply personal work. Some unnamed catastrophe has scourged the world to a burnt-out cinder, inhabited by the last remnants of mankind and a very few surviving dogs and fungi. The sky is perpetually shrouded by dust and toxic particulates; the seasons are merely varied intensities of cold and dampness. Bands of cannibals roam the roads and inhabit what few dwellings remain intact in the woods.” (Quote Source: CormacMcCarthy.com. Find Book: Amazon.com. Find Movie Trailer: The Road)
  • Photo – wsj.com photo of the day by Ted Aljibe / Agency France – Presse / Getty images.

 

One Planet. Two Worlds.

beijing-skating-smog

World 1: Playing hockey on a frozen river in Beijing despite heavy smog.

[Read more…]

Riding Metro North. Floating above it all.

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I’m walking across town on 47th street to catch Metro North.  Times Square bursts to illuminate the light drizzle falling between the skyscrapers.  It’s 48° F, cool, but comfortable for the first day of December. There’s plenty of time to catch the evening train. I’m a victim of a poor night’s sleep and a long day but I float above it all – above fatigue, above the snarled commuter traffic and I welcome the soft, evening rain. This day is done. This tank is empty. There’s nothing left to do but let it fall.

Fragments from my morning reading of Clarice Lispector’s book parachute in…now the rain has stopped. It’s just cold and feels good…The days melt into one another, merge to form one whole block, a big anchor. Her gaze starts evoking a deep well. Dark and silent water…

I take my seat. Rain drops bead on my shoes and mar the morning shine. Floating, watching it from above, the rain water slides down the side of my shoe. [Read more…]

It’s getting quiet out there. Too quiet.

Stuart Palley

“Have you heard? Or more accurately, not heard? Vicious fires and vanishing ice floes aside, there’s yet another ominous sign that all is not well with the natural world: it’s getting quiet out there. Too quiet. […]

This is the chilling news: Bit by bit, bird by bird, species by species, gurgling brook by gushing river, the song of wild nature is, in many places, falling deathly silent…In short: What once was a rich, varied symphony of sound has become a far more subdued chamber orchestra, with large spaces of eerie silence where there was once a vast natural racket, signifying everything. […]

But overall, the tonal shift is undeniable, and deeply unsettling: There is now less birdsong than at any time in human history. Fewer lions’ roars,  beehive hums, elephant rumbles, frog croakings, simply because we’ve killed off so many of them, and show no signs of slowing. One by one and species by category, the orchestra’s players are exiting the stage. The concert will never be over, but at this rate, it might be a very bleak final movement indeed.”

~ Mark Morford

Don’t miss his entire post here: The Silence of the Birds: When nature gets quiet, be very afraid


Photo: Don’t miss Stuart Palley‘s photographs of wildfires in California in a series titled Terra Flamma.

The Salt of the Earth

adelita_right_whale-sebastiao-salgado

“I also befriended a whale. These are the whales in Argentina. An adult like this is 35 meters long, weighs about 40 tons. She came so close to the boat, I could touch her.  And it was incredible. Such sensitive skin! As I was caressing her, I could see her tail, 35 meters away, trembling. Incredible sensitivity. We had a small boat, just 7 meters long. She knew she could have sunk us. But she never once hit the boat. Not once! As we left, she began slapping her tail.”

~ Sebastião SalgadoGenesis from The Salt of the Earth (01:33:26)


Whether you are a professional or hobby photographer, or don’t take pictures at all, this documentary on the life and work of Sebastião Salgado will leave its mark on you.  Must see…here’s the trailer:


Notes:

The Caring Hand

tree-hand-sculpture

The Caring Hand” is a sculpture located in Glarus, Switzerland.


Source: Splitterherzen

 

Help, Thanks, Wow Rebecca!

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I’ve just finished the  first of Rebecca Sonlit’s new collection of 29 essays titled The Encyclopedia of Trouble and SpaciousnessMimi uses the word “transported.” I was this. And what came to mind after finishing the first essay was Anne Lamott’s Help, Thanks, Wow: The Three Essential Prayers

  • HELP! Help God, help me write this well*. (I’ll need 3000 prayers and still not sure He would have the requisite raw material to shape this putty.)
  • THANKS! Thank you Rebecca for this sharing this wondrous talent.
  • WOW! As I sit here reading and re-reading passages. Wow!

Here’s a few excerpts from her expedition to the Arctic Circle titled Cyclopedia of an Arctic Expedition. [Read more…]

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