To Trees, with Love

 

Lately, I have been looking at trees with renewed awareness and appreciation-the tips of spruce trees traveling miles in little circles when brushed by the wind; the clone communities of aspen, connected underground in secret companionship; the shade and shelter from blazing mountain sunshine; home to countless wild birds who wake us at first light with their songs; source of fuel, of energy, of life for the rest of the world’s systems.

Aspen in Colorado

Have you ever listened to hear a tree’s gentle message? Weeks now after completing my first read of Richard Powers’ The Overstory, I am practically at a loss to describe the novel’s impact.

“…the word tree and the word truth come from the same root,” Powers writes more than once in the pages of The Overstory. I looked them up. He’s right.

Toward the end, Nick (a character whose family history was wrapped up with American Chestnuts) gestured toward a stand of conifers where he was involved in creating artwork on a scale to be seen from orbiting satellites. “It amazes me how much they say, when you let them. They’re not hard to hear.”

To which his anonymous companion chuckled. “We’ve been trying to tell you that since 1492.”

My own journey with trees in particular and plants in general goes back decades to my own childhood. I had numerous pet plants and I named some of them. There was Katrina, the pea plant, and Elizabeth Mames, a wandering Jew given to me by my 5th grade teacher. Elizabeth Mames fills my summer flower boxes still, purple foliage with small tri-petal blossoms.

Elizabeth Mames around a mailbox.

No stranger to aloneness that is often chosen but sometimes enforced, it never failed to fill me with peace when I worked with plants. I shied away from human crowds. Still do. But I felt at home under the trees. Did they speak to me? Not in words, exactly. Maybe with sensuality.

Here’s a poem I wrote as a young college student.

The Lonely Pine

Alone and lonely I met the Ponderosa pine,

Relaxed beneath its radial limbs,

Savored, in my loneliness, the sigh of wind

Through its thousands of fingers,

Pondered the cylindrical split of each

Cluster of three needles fallen to Earth,

Savored again the lonely whine of each live needle

Brushed by the strong south wind,

And I loved that tree.

None but me had ever noticed

—really noticed—that Ponderosa,

and we were companions in loneliness.

At that moment I sensed

All grasses of the prairies,

All trees of the forests,

All birds of the air,

All fish of the sea,

And all creatures of Earth

Were engulfed in the loneliness I knew.

Then, too, I sensed

That though all life may receive

And respond to love,

Only we humans initiate

The silting in of canyons of loneliness.

And then I loved

The Earth and its life,

So all things might be free of loneliness

Forevermore.

After reading The Overstory, I’m not sure any longer that only humans can make the first move toward reconciliation and community. Maybe the botanical world is trying to tell us something. If you can hear them, listen.

 

Tears for a Tree

 
Passed daily on my way to anywhere—
The world’s most beautiful tree,
Stately, spreading limbs, shading
Cattle on hot summer days,

Praying to the sun through winter’s dormancy,

Rustling leaves in a fresh spring breeze,

The symmetry—the shape—taking my breath,
My admiration, my appreciation, my awe.

Set in the valley downstream from our pond,
Water and sunshine in abundance,

A monument along the highway,
A monument to life, the perfect cottonwood tree.
 
But not quite.
 
Mired against a culvert passing beneath the pavement,
The roots incomplete, impossible to anchor against moving water
Or against steel.
One night rain poured in sheets

And the wind blew.
The gale caught those beautiful boughs and
Toppled the tree.
 
The entire tree.
 
Next morning the sun shone on the ruined giant,
Uprooted by wind where the roots found no anchor.

I cry for the tree. And I wonder:
How many times have I been seduced by the
Appearance of perfection?

How many times have I basked in the seduction
Of incomplete beauty?
 
How many times have you?
Have we all?
In the dearth of the stately tree,
May the dry crumbling leaves

And the severed roots and branches
Remind me that beauty may beckon
Though it is flawed with hidden imperfections.
Monuments which steal our devotion
May crumble in life’s storms.
 
Beware what we revere lest a wind come
And topple the monarchs we extol.
Nothing, but nothing, is without a fault
And danger
Waits within that which is most alluring.

Sanctuary: A Photo Essay

“A picture is worth a thousand words”. I wonder how many scenes can be pulled from just one word?

Sanctuary

courtesy Vijay Sherring
courtesy Vijay Sherring

Sanctuary

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SANCTUARY

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“A picture is worth a thousand words” but how many scenes can be pulled from just one word?

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SACRED SACRED

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sanctuary?
courtesy Rebecca McCutcheon, The Winfield Courier
courtesy Rebecca McCutcheon, The Winfield Courier

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S A C R E D 

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 S  A  N  C  T  U  A  R  Y  !  !  !

 
 
And Jesus went into the temple, and began to cast out those that sold and bought in the temple, ond overthrew the tables of the moneychangers . . . . And he told them, “Is it not written my house shall be called a house of prayer among all nations? But you have made it a den of thieves.” Mark 11: 15, 17
 
 
 
 
For more information, see
http://www.vjsexoticsafaris.com
http://www.rideforrenewables.com
http://350.org
http://www.tarsandsaction.org
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LpfWCpRvY9c&sns=fb

http://www.winfieldcourier.com/archives/article_e9faf415-cec6-562c-963e-98c3916b12c3.html

Once there was a Rooster

Dear Septanna,

Perhaps it was predictable that I should become an environmentalist, an earth-lover, a tree-hugger, defender of Nature from encroaching civilization. I was born in the month of May, the green month. PICT0635May’s stone is deep green emerald, the color which has always been my favorite. Green represents life, renewal, constancy, dependability. And hope. Green, the cool background color, frames splashes of vivid prairie blossoms during May. Just as the foliage of a wild rose bush catches and holds dew at night, green is a beautiful color, but in a quiet way.

PICT0085Like me. I’ve always been a quiet person. Public appearances never come easily to me. I am much more comfortable alone on my prairie, pen and notebook in hand, dogs panting happily at my feet after a run through the native pasture. The only sounds I hear besides their panting are wind whistling through bare branches on the trees surrounding our nearly-dry pond, and the screech of a hawk circling high above our heads.PICT0106

Gentle and kind-hearted, I wouldn’t hurt a flea.  Well, maybe a flea. But you get the idea. I am the calm greenness surrounding today’s flashy and assertive personalities.

So what happens when my prairie is in peril from the short-sighted choices of billions of people? What can I do to shake my fellow humans awake? You wouldn’t think there’d be much a timid, background sort of person could do. Those who have great wealth seem to possess the power on our planet today. They seem to be seduced by the prospects of even greater profits and will wield significant influence to exploit our finite planetary resources for short-term gain. At your expense, dear Septanna. But what can one shy grandmother do about it?

Just when I feel all is lost, I recall the rooster. And I find hope.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOnce there was this rooster.He was supposed to be a hen, an araucana hen, no less. He should have laid eggs with pastel green shells. Several years ago I bought three araucana pullets for the novelty of having green eggs. Two of those pullets turned out to be roosters. There was only one hen. Pullets are supposed to be female chicks so all three should have laid eggs.

Somebody made a mistake.  Twice.

As these two roosters grew, they began to crow. One turned aggressive. He terrorized his brother, his sister, and every other hen in our chicken house.

I exiled him to fend for himself outside the chicken yard. You may be wondering why I didn’t just make some chicken noodle soup. Well, that’s me—prisoner of my own soft heart, I was incapable of harming this fighting cock. I couldn’t kill this rooster. But I wouldn’t have stopped a coyote from hauling him off. He was exiled. He paced the chicken yard perimeter day after day, month after month, even (yes) year after year. He plotted in his wee bird brain how he might gain access to the hens again.

I’d scatter some grain for him every morning—couldn’t let him starve either. But I wasn’t going to let him terrorize my hens.

So he charged me. Imagine that! I was the person who let him live, the provider of his daily food. But he charged me. He seemed to wait until I turned my back and, with a rush of feet across the ground and a flurry of wings, he launched himself toward my legs, spurs outstretched.

I took to carrying a child’s plastic bat with me to do chores. If I thumped the bat on the ground as I approached, he seemed to get the message. He left me alone. Most of the time.

There were still instances when I heard the rush and thunder of his charge behind me. Then some interesting things happened inside me. My heart rate  jumped to double in about two seconds. I’d turn toward this fighting cock, raise that bat and swing with all my might. No thought process was involved, simply act and react, a mere instinct to fight my aggressor. On more than one occasion, the bat connected squarely with this rooster’s head. I knocked him silly. He’d stagger around and slump to the ground, quivering and jerking in spasms.

I felt instant remorse. “Oh my God, I’ve killed him!” I thought. As if that would be a bad thing. For me, though, kind-hearted timid little me, it was a bad thing. I dropped the bat and retreated to a safe distance. I watched until he struggled to his feet and dragged himself around the corner of the hen house.

Eventually this rooster met his fate, but not at my hands. However, because of his aggression, I learned that somewhere deep inside of me, I have the instincts and the adrenaline to fight when I feel threatened. I think that’s applicable to our world today, Septanna. My intuition tells me that many of the choices made by my fellow human beings pose a threat—not just to me, not just to my prairie, but to you as well. And there’s nothing more dangerous than an angry mother, be it a bear or a human being. Maybe it’s time to start carrying my bat again and fight for you in every way I can imagine.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Winter Wanderlust

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I long to be thrust into the cold embrace of a winter wilderness,

To tramp upon the crunch of crusted snow,

To smell the pain of icy air expanding when inhaled

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And feel the softness of a flake of snow as it settles warmly on my frozen nose,

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To open and reclose my brittle lips on teeth which shiver in the biting air,

To feel the nip of winter’s ravenous jaws and wind heed not my heavy winter clothes,

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PICT0612To feel the life-blood freezing in my naked fingers

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and walk on sticks of toes which feel no more;

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PICT0625All this with longing wakens in me when every year the autumn season ends,

The strange emotion which comes just to restless people,

The lonely call of winter wanderlust.

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PICT0628To feel these tiny bits of cold and dying is the best way I can appreciate

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The fire-warmth of a little one-room cabin

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Or the stubborn life within a twisted tree.

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To live within the wildness meant forever

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And realize our whims are not supreme

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But Nature, when the time comes, will reclaim us—

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All this makes up the winter wanderlust.

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After the thrust into a wilderness,

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After tramping on the crunch of crusted snow,

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After blood has frozen in my sticks of fingers and of toes,

After the soft, warm snowflake has melted

From some mysterious heat within my nose,

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After the wind has chilled me to the bone,

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Then comes the culmination of this wanderlust—

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The return to warmth, to shed my icy coat,

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAStand and tingle as the rushing blood thaws out my frozen skin,

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Wince in pain as toe-sticks reawaken, and glow as life returns again.

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This is the essence of the wanderlust.

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To long to suffer in the wilderness,

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To will to make my feet and fingers dead-like,

To greet the icy wind with a welcome thrill,

Ultimately, I renew my life.

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAfter touching death’s cold icy fingers,

To come again and live to love the warmth—

This strange emotion which comes just to restless people,

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To touch the ruthless side of Mother Nature

And love as life returns again—

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This death, and life, with longing wakens in me

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The lonely call of winter wanderlust.

 The lonely call of winter wanderlust.