Welcome to Hidden Among the Trees, the 39th issue of The Festival of the Trees blog carnival. The Festival of the Trees is a periodic revelation of our findings and imaginings from trees, forests, gardens, backyards, orchards, and oases located in different parts of the world. Our purposes are connection, celebration, a sharing of knowledge.
This month I have invited people to seek out what is hidden (or lurking) among the trees, and share a glimpse of a secret with us. By inviting others to reveal a secret, a discovery, or a dream, it is my hope that we can illuminate hidden (or perhaps, merely forgotten) connections between each other and our world.
Discovering Solutions: Environmental Problem Solving
At the new blog An Exploration of Environment & Spirituality, Antioch University Seattle graduate student Laura is “delving deeper into the connection between humans and nature.” Her introductory post tells us:
“The basis of my inquiry is my understanding that traditional cultures, in general, understood that humans are part of nature, and that, as we know from the scientific field of ecology, all life is connected in an intricate web of interdependence.”
Like Laura, I believe that our perceived separateness from the rest of the world is a source of our current environmental woes. By seeing ourselves as connected not just with each other, but with all of the Earth’s systems, we position ourselves to problem solve from the new perspective of “part of” rather than “separate from.”
Keeping Secrets: Forested Mysteries
One of my first discoveries this month arrived via Pacific Northwest hiker and photographer Stacy Marie Davis. In May 2009 Davis discovered “Dirty Harry’s Truck,” a rusting ‘museum’ in the forests of the Cascades, which she announces online with an emphatic “Suck it Dirty Harry!” in the NWHikers.net discussion forums. As Davis explains, “To find it, you must earn it.” There is no clear trail to this abandoned remnant of escapades past. Davis’ Dirty Harry's Trail photoset on Flickr shares a glimpse of her findings, but clearly we aren’t getting the full picture. If we want to see it for ourselves, we would have to strap on the boots and start walking.
Among many explorers an unending debate grumbles as to whether secret places such as these should be kept hidden, or shared with others. My internet search for more of Dirty Harry’s Truck took me to the blog KarensTrails, and her post The Power of Secret Places. In this post, Karen Sykes carefully explores the sometimes heated argument about whether or not to share secret places. As an example she tells us about hidden lakes, cherished by the pilgrims who use their will, fortitude, and love of the forest to find these mystical waters.
Bloggers everywhere are partaking in this argument whether we consider it, or not. Each day we reveal online for the unnamed audiences of ephemeral internet archives what might normally stay hidden: our journals. Poet G. C. Waldrep tells us in Apologia Pro Vita Tua: “ […] In the best paintings some key figure is always missing. This is the magic behind both Vermeer and Delacroix. / In the forest, the key figure is never missing, only hiding. […]” Which invites us to consider: what secrets do we selectively keep to ourselves when we share our discoveries online? What stays hidden, left to the imagination?
NimrodCooper presents us with just such a scenario in “It escalated into a melancholy murder.” Here, with photo and few words, the artist shares the last days of the Shaker Tree. When you gaze at this picture, I invite you to alight on the memorial stone of the Watervliet Shaker Community, take a look around, and consider what you see. Are we the fools?
Sharing Secrets: A bird in the hand…
… is worth two in the bush. Or so the saying goes. The idea as I understand it is that it’s preferable to have some advantage, rather than mere possibilities of potential advantage. Perhaps more clearly stated: don’t be greedy when you can be thankful for what you’ve got.
For those among us who are willing to share, the “bird in the hand” is in fact something which can be released – a treasure to be set free for someone else to admire. This is the spirit of Ester Wilson’s blog Daily Drawings, where she reveals moments of her ever-evolving artistic portfolio. Included among her recent drawings is Stone Mountain Graveyard, a sketch of a tree which she states she drew while sitting in a graveyard.
If you’ve ever sat in a graveyard to reflect, or to speak to someone who has passed, you can identify how this small glimpse is so revealing. When I visit a graveyard, trees are often the way-markers to finding the people whose memorials I seek. Sometimes, those trees are the only breathing audience to what I need to say. Lubna Kably of The Writer’s Cyberslate knows this too, which is why she chooses to share her post, Remember Your Roots. Herein, Kably reveals two distinct moments of wisdom: first, the power of sharing a secret with a tree, and second, the need to emulate a tree as we grow and change throughout our lifetimes, as she states simply: “Always strive to stand tall, but remember your roots.”
Author Aimée Laine remembers her roots clearly in creating her short creative nonfiction piece Nature Girls. I was (ok, I AM) one of those girls running barefooted into the unknown. Laine artfully articulates the mystery, anticipation, and discovery to which the forest lends itself, complete with tree-bridge photo, inviting you to cross into another world.
Speaking of tree bridges, I am so thankful for this hidden treasure revealed at the Damn Cool Pics blog. In The Living Bridges post we are taken to Cherrapunji, India, where they grow bridges from the Ficus elastic tree:
“The War-Khasis, a local tribe, noticed this plant and realized its potential. Using hollowed-out betel nut trunks, the tribesmen are able to direct the roots in whatever way they like. When the roots grow all the way across a river, they are allowed to return to the soil, and over time, a strong bridge is formed. It takes up to 10-15 years for a root bridge to develop, but it becomes stronger with each passing year and are known to last for centuries.”
As if the pictures and descriptions aren’t cool enough, the ladies of the Travel and… Action! blog escort us across one of these bridges for a unique video-peek at a living root bridge. You can visit their blog to see yet another amazing bridge, this one a suspended length of bamboo in Arunachal Pradesh. (Bamboo isn’t a tree proper, but it grows a lot like one!)
Meanwhile at Walking Prescott of Prescott, Arizona, Granny J shares with us a glimpse of fortitude revealed in the gritty trees of the rocky ridgelines. As you gaze at these Herculean evergreens, it’s easy to lose yourself in the silence. What do these trees see and experience up there on the rock about which we can only dream?
Lost and Found: Memories, Discoveries, and Tree-Secrets
The trees which grow in our communities and local woodlands can have significant, personal impacts on our lives. In August 2009 a powerful, passing storm felled over 200 trees and destroyed hundreds more in Central Park of New York City. At The American Friend blog, native New Yorker Druidhead shares a personal glimpse at the trees she knew, the sanctuary they provided, the personal history she shared with them, and the memories she keeps of their branching shade.
Trees don’t just keep our whispered secrets, but they also hold secrets of their own. Using fossil records of ancient trees and contemporary records of modern forests, paleoclimatologists and paleobotanists consider correlations between dominant leaf morphology (e.g. shape, size, and margins like toothed, lobed, or entire/smooth) and climate patterns in different world regions. In dendroclimatological studies, scientists consider correlations of tree ring growth to climatological, ecological, and geological history. Jeff Id of The Air Vent blog muses in An Ode to the Great Thermometer Tree on the virtues of paleodendric secrets yet to be revealed.
Meteorological studies on the formation of clouds are important for current studies in climate change. At the Ozark Highlands of Missouri blog Allison Vaughn shares a press release on cloud seeding based on the research of Henrik Kjærgaard of the University of Copenhagen which reveals newly-discovered connections between the chemicals released by certain trees which, when concentrated over healthy forests, contribute to the formation of clouds. According to Kjærgaard, a better understanding of the processes that affect cloud formation is critical to the development of meaningful climate models.
At Machines Like Us, the editors are discussing current research on the colors of autumn leaves conducted on behalf of scientists Simcha Lev-Yadun of the University of Haifa-Oranim and Jarmo Holopainen of the University of Kuopio. Lev-Yadun and Holopainen look back 35 million years to theorize about the differences in yellows and reds of autumn leaf coloring as it relates to the shared evolutionary history among of insects, plants, and seasons.
At Osage + Orange, Dave Coulter provides The Local Report: A Hawthorne in Decline from the Des Plaines River in Illinois. Coulter’s post reminds us to engage in the simple act of looking and watching as we travel our daily paths – be they urban or rural – and make connections.
Denny Lyon at Beautiful Illustrated Quotations elongates the experience of observation through a collected series of tree photography and poetry in People Trees. Stroll through the imagery until you find something familiar – something which resonates, and then stop for a while and just look at what’s there in the photo.
Arati at Trees, Plants, and More muses on the Tropical Tree Tales of old squabbles between people and trees. And in case you were doubting the connections between people and trees, hop over to Jill and Ted’s Tree-mendous Adventure to see the secret truth revealed in response to the old question, Where do people come from?
Dave Bonta of Via Negativa is Listening for the Saw-Whet. And as further confirmation of the people-come-from-trees-theory, we see someone emerging from A Hollow Hemlock. Still my favorite discovery at Via Negativa this month is the lunar moth, a gorgeous member of the mystical Saturniiae; its hugeness and iridescence remind me of forest walks I took in Belize when I first saw the Blue Morpho butterflies.
Here at Arboreality, I wasn’t sure what secret I would share for this Festival. It was the forest which decided for me. In August I discovered my newest neighbors, the Secretive Summer Residents: Bald-Faced Hornets in the Backyard. These busy insects are hidden in the branches just a few meters from my home, and I can watch them work from a safe distance.
Amber Coakley at the Birder’s Lounge blog shares a discovery which (unlike wasps) you can safely touch, taste, and smell: the Texas Persimmon Tree. It’s not just people who like this fruit, but birds as well.
At Rock Paper Lizard Hugh is also paying careful attention to the local birds, and the fruits they love. Hugh shows us The Young and the Handsome Cedar waxwings, and discovers an attentive Mother bird, a White-crowned sparrow, whose nest has been usurped by the Brown-headed cowbird. Among the neighborhood trees of Vancouver, British Columbia, Hugh reports that Frugivores are Happy.
Not a Secret: Human-Forest Connections Revealed
Discussions regarding human relationships with the Earth's systems (such as forest conservation, habitat destruction, ecological restoration, and climate change) are raised by scientists, politicians, environmentalists, and concerned citizens on all sides of the issues. These topics can remain (or become) “hidden” when they are not discussed, shared, and understood.
In South Wales Jennifer Marohasy believes that Red Gum Forests Need Water and Thinning: Not Bob Carr, while India and Pakistan seem to be neck-and-neck competing for the common goal of a Guinness World Record for tree-planting.
In an attempt to resolve the ongoing human-elephant conflicts, members of the Green Valley Forest and Wildlife Protection Society are supporting efforts to plant trees along the Indo-Bhutan border. The goal is to help reestablish important elephant corridors in order to mitigate their need to search for food in human settlements.
Audrey Rabalais at College Green Magazine reports on current efforts to restore the American chestnut tree in southeastern Ohio.
“At one time, the American chestnut made up roughly 25 percent of trees in the forests of the eastern United States and about 5 percent of Ohio’s forests. In 1904 the fungus Diaporthe parasitica was accidentally introduced to the Bronx Zoo in New York City through chestnut lumber imported from China. The parasitic fungus caused sores to develop in American chestnut trees, killing them slowly. By the early 1940s, the American chestnut was nearly extinct.”
The Appalachian Regional Reforestation Initiative (ARRI) and the American Chestnut Foundation (ACF) support the planting of American chestnut throughout the region. As a fast-growing hardwood, it is believed that American chestnuts are an especially good choice for reforestation efforts, such as those planned for reclaimed mining locations.
LookAtVietnam discusses the need to support healthy growth in the region’s mangrove forests. Mangroves are slow-growing coastal trees which provide habitat for numerous creatures of air, land, and sea while simultaneously protecting coastlines from erosion.
In Malaysia, the Indigenous Peoples Organizations are speaking out for a moratorium on monoculture plantations. Chris Lang reports at PULP, Inc. that on August 9, 2009, the UN-declared international holiday of World Indigenous Peoples Day, the indigenous Malaysians submitted a statement to their governments which includes the following:
“ […] Over the past decades, our indigenous communities have faced a turbulent survival as a result of our forest being continuously exploited by the timber companies. Logging have destroyed our fundamental existence to livelihood, the plant varieties including medicinal plants, animals and fish have either become threatened or extinct. The bulldozed forests cannot be planted with crops as the soil is compacted and disturbed; crop harvests are reduced and rivers on which the people depend on for water becomes polluted. Forest produce becomes scarce and threatens the survival of the people who have depended on it for hundreds of years. […] ”
I would submit that while this problem is felt most acutely by the indigenous peoples of the world, that it is relevant for all humans. For those of us living in urban or semi-urban settings, the impacts of environmental destruction by humans may not be as immediate or as visible. This does not make the issues less relevant. The impacts of forest destruction do not pause at political boundaries, societal classes, or religious affiliations. It is critical that we consider the wisdom of the indigenous peoples who can tell us first-hand, “Hey everybody, this isn’t working!”
From suburban America, Lucille Clifton drives this message home during a 1990 poetry reading of her piece The Killing of the Trees posted at Moving Poems. Watch, listen, and consider: collected in this blog carnival are a mere handful of articles, essays, stories, images, and thoughts which reflect the deep connections shared among humans and the Earth’s systems. How much more evidence do we collectively need to examine before the health of our environments becomes personally relevant for all of us?
If you would like to continue the discussion of the human-forest connection, I invite you to visit Laura’s blog mentioned at the beginning of this month’s Festival of the Trees. Among her early posts Laura shares a glimpse into a discussion she facilitated this summer among pagans in the Seattle area. Some participants mention the struggle to connect with “nature” while living in an urban setting. Laura’s approach to this issue is to find avenues by which the separateness of “nature” can be dissolved to reveal the connectedness of life on Earth.
Regardless of where you live, or what system by which you form your beliefs about the world, each of us has something to share in both thought and action to cultivate a healthy relationship between people and planet. We are all housed under the same sky, wash ourselves with the same water, breathe the same molecules of life-giving oxygen, sustain ourselves with the fruits and roots of the worlds’ plants. The natural world is not out of reach: it is everywhere, it is in us, it is of us. This isn’t a secret; share it with the world!
Thank you for joining us this month for the 39th issue of The Festival of the Trees. Special thanks to all our contributors, and to Dave Bonta for his many submissions of found treasures in the arborblogging world.
Thanks to D. L. Ennis of Visual Thoughts Photography (http://dlennis.wordpress.com) for the use of his photo Wise Old Owl, Copyright © 2009 D. L. Ennis. Visit Visual Thoughts for more of D. L. Ennis' colorful perspective of the green, growing world.
All other photos in this issue by Jade Leone Blackwater, Copyright © 2009 Jade Leone Blackwater.
Dinosaur photos taken in October 2008 at the Prehistoric Gardens located off of Highway 101 in Oregon State.
Upcoming Issue of The Festival of the Trees
For the 40th issue of The Festival of the Trees we return to Local Ecologist with Georgia, who asks us to submit entries on the theme of “Benefits of trees to people, wildlife, and the environment in general.”
Deadline for submissions to The Festival of the Trees 40 is Saturday, September 26, 2009. Send tree-related blog posts, images, video, and other online discoveries to: info[at]localecology[dot]org .
Ready to host The Festival of the Trees at your blog? We are seeking volunteers for upcoming Festivals. To learn more, visit The Festival of the Trees coordinating blog.