Now look again. Did you see something green? If you did, you saw one of the few things left in the world that people cannot make.

hope-jahren

PEOPLE LOVE THE OCEAN. People are always asking me why I don’t study the ocean, because, after all, I live in Hawaii. I tell them that it’s because the ocean is a lonely, empty place. There is six hundred times more life on land than there is in the ocean, and this fact mostly comes down to plants. The average ocean plant is one cell that lives for about twenty days. The average land plant is a two-ton tree that lives for more than one hundred years. The mass ratio of plants to animals in the ocean is close to four, while the ratio on land is closer to a thousand. Plant numbers are staggering: there are eighty billion trees just within the protected forests of the western United States. The ratio of trees to people in America is well over two hundred. As a rule, people live among plants but they don’t really see them. Since I’ve discovered these numbers, I can see little else.

So humor me for a minute, and look out your window. What did you see? You probably saw things that people make. These include other people, cars, buildings, and sidewalks. After just a few years of design, engineering, mining, forging, digging, welding, bricklaying, window-framing, spackling, plumbing, wiring, and painting, people can make a hundred-story skyscraper capable of casting a thousand-foot shadow. It’s really impressive.

Now look again. Did you see something green? If you did, you saw one of the few things left in the world that people cannot make. What you saw was invented more than four hundred million years ago near the equator. Perhaps you were lucky enough to see a tree. That tree was designed about three hundred million years ago. The mining of the atmosphere, the cell-laying, the wax-spackling, plumbing, and pigmentation took a few months at most, giving rise to nothing more or less perfect than a leaf. There are about as many leaves on one tree as there are hairs on your head. It’s really impressive.

~ Hope Jahren, Lab Girl 


Lab Girl was selected as an Amazon Book of the Month for April, 2016.  These are the opening lines from Hope Jahren‘s book which is described as “an illuminating debut memoir of a woman in science; a moving portrait of a longtime friendship; and a stunningly fresh look at plants that will forever change how you see the natural world.”

New York Times Book Review: ‘Lab Girl,’ Hope Jahren’s Road Map to the Secret Life of Plants

Walking in Woods. Clueless.

trees-woods-light-umbrella

2:30 am.
We’re back on the front seat of the insomnia bus.
Unfinished business from work is clanking around.
No. Don’t get up. Not yet. Keep your eyes shut.
It’s dark. It’s quiet. I listen through my eyelids.
The North winds whistle, and freezing air leaks through the window sills.
It’s cold. I pull the comforter up.  Zeke, at my feet, stirs.

It keeps coming back.
It’s mid-December.  A late Saturday afternoon.  Overcast.  Rain is threatening.  I grab the leash, call for Zeke and we walk.

Baker Park is a small suburban park, a brisk ten minute walk.  It’s adorned with a half-sized aluminum backstop, grassy fields and a small playground.  A wooded area rings the back end with paths carved by the Boy Scouts in a summer project.

Zeke bounds ahead, his feet stirring the leaves that layer the earth.

I pass the first. It’s a glance.
I pass the second. It has my attention.
I pass the third. I slow my pace.
I pass the fourth. I’m troubled now.
I approach the fifth. I stop. Don’t you dare move to the 6th.

[Read more…]

Saturday Morning

japan-fall-autumn-trees-color-yellow-road

[…]
My head carries the sound of tap-dancing through puddles.
One slow stab of wonder until I get to sleep again.
I think the trees are firework taxidermy.
A steady reminder of celebration and light.
How quiet.
I’m a collapsing house.
Come collect me.
[…]

~ Dalton Day, “Stepping Out of Sorrow,” published in Souvenir


Notes:

What are these words worth?

September, October,

What are these words worth?
Who else would believe
these trees &
this sun &
this Aeolian gust?
Amen again.

~ Nate Pritts, “Feelings, Associated,” Right Now More Than Ever: Poems


Credits: Poem – the distance between two doors. Photo: We Heart It.  Bio/website: Natt Pritts

Reading the newspaper? Yes? Think about it.

coffee-paper-newspaper

A large stump raised six feet above ground on buttressed roots offers a good lookout. The man who felled this tree cut two deep notches in its base, which I use to clamber on top. It’s about five feet in diameter and nearly flat, except for a straight ridge across the center where the cutter left hinge wood to direct the tree’s fall.  The surface is soggy and checked, but still ridged with the concentric growth rings. On hands and knees, nose almost touching the wood, using my knife blade as a poster, I start to count.  In a short while, I know the tree died in its four hundred and twenty-third year. […]

Now I gaze into a valley miles deep, laid bare to its high slopes, with only patches of living timber left between the clearcut swaths.  Where I stand now, a great tree once grew. The circle that mark the centuries of its life surround me, and I dream back through them. It’s difficult to imagine the beginnings – perhaps a seed that fell from a flurry of crossbills like those I saw a while ago.  More difficult still is the incomprehensible distance of time this tree crossed, as it grew from a limber switch on the forest floor to a tree perhaps 150 feet tall and weighing dozens of tons. Another way to measure the scope of its life is in terms of storms. Each years scores of them swept down this valley – thousands of boiling gales and blizzards in the tree’s lifetime – and it withstood them all.

The man who walked up beside it some twenty years ago would have seemed no more significant than a puff of air on a summer afternoon.

Perhaps thin shafts of light shone onto the forest floor that day, and danced on the velvet moss. I wonder what that man might have thought, as he looked into the tree’s heights and prepared to bring it down. Perhaps he thought only about the job at hand, or his aching back, or how long it was until lunch. I would like to believe he gave some consideration to the tree itself, to its death and his responsibilities toward it, as he pulled the cord that set his chainsaw blaring. […]

The clearcut valley rumbled like an industrial city through a full decade of summers, as the island’s living flesh was stripped away. Tugs pulled great rafts of logs from Deadfall Bay, through tide-slick channels toward the mill, where they were ground into pulp and slurried aboard ships bound for Japan. Within a few months, the tree that took four centuries to grow was transformed into newspapers, read by commuters on afternoon trains, and then tossed away.

~ Richard Nelson, The Island Within


Notes:

I feel like a minuscule upstart in their presence.

yellow-cedar-tree

Studies of coastal forests like this one reveal that exposure to wind is what most determines the age of trees. Whereas spruce trees in vulnerable stands live an average of two hundred years, those in sheltered, fertile areas like the Deer Meadow valley can live eight or nine hundred years. Yellow cedars, which are better able to resist wind, commonly survive for a thousand years. […]

Only a few raindrops and oversized snowflakes sift through the crown of trees as a squall passes over.  I’m grateful for the shelter, and I sense a deeper kind of comfort here.  These are living things I move among, immeasurably older and larger and more deeply affixed to their place on earth than I am, and imbued with vast experience of a kind entirely beyond my comprehension. I feel like a minuscule upstart in their presence, a supplicant awaiting the quiet counsel of venerable trees.

~ Richard Nelson, The Island Within


Notes:

  • Photograph of 800 year Yellow Cedar Tree in Cypress Provincial Park in British Columbia: Mick
  • Related Posts on Live & Learn: Richard Nelson

Breathe it in, pass it on

stanley-park-forest-trees

I breathe in the soft, saturated exhalations of cedar trees and salmonberry bushes, fireweed and wood fern, marsh hawks and meadow voles, marten and harbor seal and blacktail deer. I breathe in the same particles of air that made songs in the throats of hermit thrushes and gave voices to humpback whales, the same particles of air that lifted the wings of bald eagles and buzzed in the flight of hummingbirds, the same particles of air that rushed over the sea in storms, whirled in high mountain snows, whistled across the poles, and whispered through lush equatorial gardens  . . . air that has passed continually through life on earth. I breathe it in, pass it on, share it in equal measure with billions of other living things, endlessly, infinitely.

~ Richard Nelson, The Island Within


Notes: Quote: Whiskey River. Photo: Ted McBride in Stanley Park, Vancouver, B.C.

What made me look up?

among-trees-photography

Michael Goldman wrote in a poem,

“When the Muse comes
She doesn’t tell you to write; /
She says get up for a minute,
I’ve something to show you,
stand here.”

What made me look up at that roadside tree?

~ Annie Dillard, The Present, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek


Image: AMCH-Photography

Sunday Morning: Spring

tree-forest-tall-up-sky

So. I have been thinking about the change of seasons. I don’t want to miss spring this year. I want to distinguish the last winter frost from the out-of-season one, the frost of spring. I want to be there on the spot the moment the grass turns green…But it occurred to me that I could no more catch spring by the tip of the tail than I could untie the apparent knot in the snakeskin; there are no edges to grasp. Both are continuous loops. […]

I don’t want the same season twice in a row; I don’t want to know I’m getting last week’s weather, used weather, weather broadcast up and down the coast, old-hat weather. But there’s always unseasonable weather. What we think of the weather and behavior of life on the planet at any given season is really all a matter of statistical probabilities; at any given point, anything might happen. There is a bit of every season in each season. Green plants— deciduous green leaves— grow everywhere, all winter long, and small shoots come up pale and new in every season. Leaves die on the tree in May, turn brown, and fall into the creek. The calendar, the weather, and the behavior of wild creatures have the slimmest of connections. Everything overlaps smoothly for only a few weeks each season, and then it all tangles up again. The temperature, of course, lags far behind the calendar seasons, since the earth absorbs and releases heat slowly, like a leviathan breathing. Migrating birds head south in what appears to be dire panic, leaving mild weather and fields full of insects and seeds; they reappear as if in all eagerness in January, and poke about morosely in the snow. Several years ago our October woods would have made a dismal colored photograph for a sadist’s calendar: a killing frost came before the leaves had even begun to brown; they drooped from every tree like crepe, blackened and limp. It’s all a chancy, jumbled affair at best, as things seem to be below the stars. Time is the continuous loop, the snakeskin with scales endlessly overlapping without beginning or end, or time is an ascending spiral if you will, like a child’s toy Slinky. Of course we have no idea which arc on the loop is our time, let alone where the loop itself is, so to speak, or down whose lofty flight of stairs the Slinky so uncannily walks.

~ Annie Dillard, Untying the Knot. Pilgrim at Tinker Creek 


Photo: jaimejustelaphoto

April 4th: Cherry Blossom Explosion

Cherry-Blossoms-Tokyo

pink-cherry-blossom-painting-art


Notes:

 

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