So I have said that I have begun to notice trees.
Well, in this light, I stumbled across this essay by Alan Jacobs a few weeks ago and found it just superb.
Jacobs points to both our fascination of trees and our often and unfortunate neglect of them.
All this is in the front of my mind right now because we have had this awful, pitiful-looking, oak tree in our backyard since we bought our house.
Long story short we had it pruned hoping to save it and – honestly – I kind of forgot about it for a year or two there.
Well, spring has sprung and that tree now looks like it could hold up the world.
Three of my favorite quotes from the essay:
Yet the very form of Tree was endlessly fascinating to me. We lived in an old ramshackle house which had the single virtue of a large L-shaped porch, and in the frequent afternoon thunderstorms of my Alabama childhood I would park myself in a dry spot on the porch and watch, almost literally mesmerized, the tall trees’ dialogue with the wind. I never tired of this spectacle, nor did I ever miss an opportunity to encounter it again. The enormous creatures really did seem almost to talk to one another, and perhaps to me. Just a few weeks ago, when powerful southerly winds rushed into my part of Illinois, I was walking across the wide front lawn of the Wheaton College campus, and when I passed under an enormous oak I heard that same language and felt transported to that porch in Alabama and our cluster of pecan trees. But I didn’t pause in reverie; instead I quickened my pace, because in winds so fierce that old oak could easily have dropped a branch big enough to kill me.
It is almost impossible to describe these books without falling into a recitation of Fun Facts to Know and Tell. Some trees (mangroves and their relatives) can live with their roots in ocean water because they have developed bark that filters out the salt. Coast redwoods get about a third of their water from the fogs that roll in off the Pacific — good thing, because it is no easy trick to lift water three hundred and fifty feet in the air, which is what some of these titans do. Many botanists understand a grove of aspens as one enormous organism, among the largest found in nature, though not as large as the vast fungi that can run for dozens of acres underground, providing minerals to thousands of trees. A tree endemic to the island of New Caledonia (Sebertia acuminata, if you must know) absorbs so much nickel that its rubbery sap runs bright blue. Many trees survive and even thrive after having been blown over in storms: they just need to keep a small portion of their root system in place. And cows — this is a typical Rackham comment — cows prefer tree leaves to almost any other food, but just can’t reach many of them. Sad, really.
This essay appears in a magazine made of paper; I wrote much of it sitting at a wooden desk, from which I arose occasionally to get an apple — an apple I bought at the local grocery after driving there in a rubber-tired vehicle. On such jaunts I may have occasionally worn a rayon shirt (rayon is made from cellulose), and I might also have picked up a bottle of olive oil, or some cinnamon sticks, or bay leaves, or a few avocados for my justly famed guacamole.