She addresses the cedar

She addresses the cedar, using words of the forest’s first humans. “Long Life Maker. I’m here. Down here.” She feels foolish, at first. But each word is a little easier than the next. “Thank you for the baskets and the boxes. Thank you for the capes and hats and skirts. Thank you for the cradles. The beds. The diapers. Canoes. Paddles, harpoons, and nets. Poles, logs, posts. The rot-proof shakes and shingles. The kindling that will always light.” Each new item is release and relief. Finding no good reason to quit now, she lets the gratitude spill out. “Thank you for the tools. The chests. The decking. The clothes closets. The paneling. I forget. . . . Thank you,” she says, following the ancient formula. “For all these gifts that you have given.” And still not knowing how to stop, she adds, “We’re sorry. We didn’t know how hard it is for you to grow back.”

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


Notes:

Aspens alone quake when all others stand in dead calm

She gets out of the car and walks up into the trees on the crest west of the road. Aspens stand in the afternoon sun, spreading along the ridge out of sight. Populus tremuloides. Clouds of gold leaf glint on thin trunks tinted the palest green. The air is still, but the aspens shake as if in a wind. Aspens alone quake when all others stand in dead calm. Long flattened leafstalks twist at the slightest gust, and all around her, a million two-toned cadmium mirrors flicker against righteous blue.

The oracle leaves turn the wind audible. They filter the dry light and fill it with expectation. Trunks run straight and bare, roughed with age at the bottom, then smooth and whitening up to the first branches. Circles of pale green lichen palette-spatter them. She stands inside this white-gray room, a pillared foyer to the afterlife. The air shivers in gold, and the ground is littered with windfall and dead ramets. The ridge smells wide open and sere. The whole atmosphere is as good as a running mountain stream…

This, the most widely distributed tree in North America with close kin on three continents, all at once feels unbearably rare. She has hiked through aspens far north into Canada, the lone hardwood holdout in a latitude monotonous with conifer. Has sketched their pale summer shades throughout New England and the Upper Midwest. Has camped among them on hot, dry outcrops above gushing streams of snowmelt, in the Rockies. Has found them etched with knowledge-encoded native arborglyphs. Has lain on her back with her eyes closed, in far southwestern mountains, memorizing the tone of that restless shudder. Picking her way across these fallen branches, she hears it again. No other tree makes this sound. The aspens wave in their undetectable breeze, and she begins to see hidden things.

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


Notes:

Monday Morning Wake-Up Call

 


Photo via Newthom

Saturday Morning

A cluster of seals rises behind the skiff when I idle away from Peril Island. I feel as if they’re ushering me off, and as if the other animals are watching with relief while I depart: the seals stretched out on warm rocks; the blinking oystercatchers; the fretting gulls and shorebirds; the eagle who flew when I arrived; the peregrine, perched in some distant tree or soaring invisibly against the sun’s corona. I can almost sense the whole place breathing out as its tranquility returns. My deepest impression is that Peril Island and its animals belong to one another, and that there is no rightful place among them for humans.

Richard NelsonThe Island Within

 


Notes: Photo Credit: conservationaction.com.  Related Posts: “Richard Nelson”, The Island Within

Tuesday Morning Wake-Up Call

When you have seen one ant, one bird, one tree, you have not seen them all. 

E. O. Wilson, in an interview in 1992, is an American biologist, researcher, theorist, naturalist and author. His biological specialty is myrmecology, the study of ants, on which he has been called the world’s leading expert.


Photo & Post: Northern Carmine Bee-eater photo by Mike Wilson.  Thank you Dan via Your Eyes Blaze Out (via San Diego Zoo)

Sunday Morning

I remember the Koyukon people’s keen awareness of changes in the terrain around them, based on what they had seen during their lifetimes and what the old-timers had seen before them. In the village of Huslia, people could remember when their cabins stood where the middle of the Koyukuk River runs today. All along its course, they had seen the river bite into its banks, cut through meander loops, build islands and move them gradually downstream, make new channels and abandon old ones. They had watched lakes become ponds, ponds become bogs, bogs become forests. The land came alive through their gift of memory and their long experience with this one part of the earth. Koyukon elders expressed this sense of change in the metaphor of a riddle:

Wait, I see something: The river is tearing away things around me.

Answer: An island, becoming smaller and smaller until it is gone.

I wish someday I might know a place as they do, might have their same visceral understanding that the land I move on is also moving. That nothing, not even this pyramid of mountain, is the same today as it was yesterday. That nothing, not even this island, exists for a moment without change.The great storm rages at this brittle edge, tore earth and rock from the shore, and washed them away beneath the surf. But what it took from the island above the sea, it laid down on the island’s underwater slopes. Recognizing this, it’s hard to say that anything was lost, or that the island was made less rich, less complete, less beautiful. An island grows old so gracefully.

Sometime in the distant future, the last remnant of Kluksa Mountain might stand amid the swells, a black spine of rock where cormorants roost and gulls rest in the wind. And after another millennium of storms, every trace of the island might disappear beneath the sea. Even the smallest grain of sand under my feet will likely be here when I’ve made my last track. A rock in the soil above this beach will probably outlast me a thousand times over. A nameless knoll above Peregrine Point may stand long after humanity has vanished from the earth. The thought makes me feel insignificant, ephemeral, and frail. But the island and I face the same inevitability of change, death, and transformation, and in this sense we belong to the same larger, less bounded world that encompasses us. We share a common life. We are a place and a person; but each of us is a process, a moment, and a passing through.

~ Richard Nelson, The Island Within (Vintage Books, April 1991)


Notes:

How to Build an Owl

1.) Decide you must.

2.) Develop deep respect
for feather, bone, claw.

3.) Place your trembling thumb
where the heart will be:
for one hundred hours watch
so you will know
where to put the first feather.

4.) Stay awake forever.
When the bird takes shape
gently pry open its beak
and whisper into it: mouse.

5.) Let it go.

~ Kathleen Lynch, “How to Build an Owl” from How to Build an Owl and other poems


Notes: Poem, thank you Hammock Papers. Photo: “White-faced Owl“ by | Patrick Monatsberger

Lightly Child, Lightly.

The secret
Of this journey is to let the wind
Blow its dust all over your body,
To let it go on blowing, to step lightly, lightly

James Wright, from “The Journey,” Above the River: The Complete Poems and Selected Prose


Notes:

  • Photo: Ali Ihsan Ozturk, wsj.com. Quote: Memory’s Landscape
  • Prior “Lightly child, lightly” Posts? Connect here.
  • Post Title & Inspiration: Aldous Huxley: “It’s dark because you are trying too hard. Lightly child, lightly. Learn to do everything lightly. Yes, feel lightly even though you’re feeling deeply. Just lightly let things happen and lightly cope with them.”

 

Monday Morning


Notes: Photo: Toshiyasu Morita, Toshi Studios (via Your Eyes Blaze Out). Anna’s Hummingbird (Calypte anna) and honey bees.

5:00 P.M. Bell! Go!


Newly hatched Olive Ridley turtles make their way to the sea on a beach in Ganjam district in eastern India’s Odisha state on Thursday. Millions of baby Olive Ridley turtles are hatching and entering the Bay of Bengal Sea. (Asit Kumar, Agence France-Presse, wsj.com April 19, 2018)

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