Reflection 311: Wildness 11

August 27, 2012

Copyright © 2012 by Steve Perrin.    [Including 11 photos.]

Standing trees are the joy of the biosphere, that thin but vibrant layer around the Earth that is home to all life we will meet in our lifetimes. As descendants of tree shrews, we revere trees and woods as our proper habitat. We are wild because they are wild. Our proper reach is the height and breadth of a tree. Beyond that, our grasp is severely limited.

Trees are my closest neighbors and therefore teachers. I bow to each as I pass for it knows a wider and more varied life than I do if I stick to the company of my own kind. Trees know birds, fungi, insects, spiders, mammals. Trees know and respect water. I would be tree minded, tree conscious. Tree wild. My secret name is Spruce, Fir, Pine, Birch, Oak, Hemlock, Hackmatack.

We might think trees are stupid for standing in one place for so long, but they really get to know that one place at every hour of the day and season of the year. Without shelter, they live the fullness of those hours and seasons, while we retreat indoors, turn on the heat and the light, and dream of far exotic lands across the sea or in the heavens. Trees, unlike us, are smart in being who they are, where they are. Rooted in different terrains, each is unique because conditions in every terrain are unique. A tree is the history of its coordinates on Earth written in growing wood. It could only be what it is in that place. Trees have integrity. As Thoreau said, “Nothing stands up more free from blame in this world than a pine tree” (Journal, Dec. 20, 1851).

Consider these trees I have met in the month of July.

P1000900 96-Trees-1P1010911 96-Trees-2P1020224 96-Trees-3 P1020237 96-Trees-4P1010978 96-Trees-5P1020177 96-tree-6P1020160 96-trees-7P1020168 96-tree-8 P1010972 96-Trees-9 P1010933 96-Trees-10P1010969 96-Trees-11The trees have spoken; I did my best to watch and listen. Each tells a different story in a language of its own. I didn’t get many of the particulars, but I got the gist. A powerful sense of what it means to live outdoors in this climate. To be alive to this place in this era. To be fundamentally wild and free without having any ability to run away. Trees have to stick it out, whatever the situation. To be who they are in that place. To understand the meaning of integrity in an extremely difficult situation.

Powered by sunlight, trees live by drawing gallon after gallon of water from the soil upward to their needles and leaves, in the process moderating the climate at ground level, sheltering life lower down, creating habitats where sensitive creatures can thrive. Through the agency of tall trees, forests work as a whole for the good of all. The global benefits of forested land—wild land—cannot be overstated. When forests of trees disappear, what remains is a dry planet like Venus or Mars.

That’s the true situation that sponsors conditions favorable to life. Wild conditions that never came off a drawing board but were earned through trial and error, not intelligent design. Conditions that cannot be duplicated once their wildness is tamed and lost. Think watersheds supplying water to every farm on Earth and every great city. We are still wild creatures of forested watersheds, testing the limits to the trickle of water that gives us our own life. To this day, in each case, that life depends on trees.

Let us celebrate our wildness, yours and mine. I will leave it at that. I’m still here, more or less conscious, like you, doing my best. Y’r friend, –Steve from Planet Earth.

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