Wednesday, March 24, 2010

a man in Provence

Well, it turns out I have a tree-doppelganger named Meara O'Reilly over at Boingboing.  She's posted TWO great stories about tree planting in the last week, and I continue to unabashedly use her posts. If you know me, you know how important Provence is to me. So, it is with great pleasure that I share the (fictional) story of one man who decided to replant a desolate valley one pip at a time. His story has just been animated, and you can read up on it here:

With each frame hand-drawn in pencil and smudged into the next, Oscar-winning animator Frédéric Back tells the story of Elzéard Bouffier, a lone shepherd in the Alps near Provence who boldly decides to single-handedly reforest the desolate valley where he lives, one acorn at a time. Not only is the story defiantly romantic, I'm in love with the way Back's patient devotion to each drawing mimics the methodical tree-planting of his main character. [amazon link]

This looks like a lovely film, and I can't wait to see it. There are days I catch the brief aroma of sun-bitten pine dust on the wind, and for a brief moment I am back in chalky valleys of France surrounded by pine-scrub and that strange blue light of the Provencal sun. There is something stubborn about these pines--craggly, bent, beaten, blown, but still reaching skyward and releasing a sweet perfume, like the wimple of a woman's scarf in a slight wind.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

The One Million Tree March

The Huffpost, via, has a great article and video on Gashaw Tahir, who has made it his life's mission to reforest Ethiopia and thus heal the land. I posit that there is a strong connection between the mass deforestation of a land and the freedom/health of its people. The exploitation that occurred under colonialism was matched by that of warlords and those seeking only financial gain. When peoples are robbed of their trees, they are robbed of themselves. This person, is fixing that:

Rivers have dried, mountains have been deforested, and rising temperatures due to climate change are making plant life more difficult to maintain. Tahir decided that something had to be done. His story is told in a new video from
"My ultimate vision is making Africa green again," he says. "That inspires me, touches me, and moves me into action." He gathered young people from his hometown -- only a few dozen at first -- but those young people recruited their friends and family until there were hundreds. On only two acres of land they planted thousands of seedlings. Now, Tahir owns 11,000 acres of Ethiopian land on which his group has planted one million trees.

Friday, March 19, 2010

The Sound of Thirsty Trees

My friend Sara B. posted this amazing link from BoingBoing on the sound of thirsty trees. I'm excited to share this for many reasons (first, I've never heard of a Bioacoustician), including the fact that I'm a proud subscriber of Make Magazine. From the Boing:
Bioacoustician Bernie Krause has recorded the amazingly rhythmic vascular systems of thirsty trees. He discovered that the cells in the xylem and phloem of the tree fill with air to try to maintain the osmotic pressure that's usually produced by the sucking of water up through the roots.  At a certain point the cells burst. Krause adds "When they pop, they make a noise: we can't hear it, but insects can. And when insects hear multiple cells popping, they're drawn to the tree because certain ones are programmed to expect sap.
 To hear the trees, follow the link in today's title. 

Thursday, March 18, 2010

The Oldest Trees on the Planet (might not be discovered)

WiredScience has a great write-up on trees, along with a gallery of the oldest known trees on the planet. It looks like we have our first tourist's checklist.  Check it out here:

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Victorian Tree Poem

I had the pleasure of teaching Gerard Manley Hopkins recently, a poet who stands among one of the greats in English literature (he even coined his own poetic term: Sprung Rhythm). We honor Hopkins today for his deep-hewed tree poem: Binsey Poplars. This poem is not only a meditation on what is lost in nature when we allow instrumentalism to determine our way of being in the world, but also what we lose within ourselves.

Binsey Poplars
by Gerard Manley Hopkins

felled 1879
  My aspens dear, whose airy cages quelled,
  Quelled or quenched in leaves the leaping sun,
  All felled, felled, are all felled;
    Of a fresh and following folded rank
                Not spared, not one
                That dandled a sandalled
         Shadow that swam or sank
On meadow and river and wind-wandering weed-winding bank.
  O if we but knew what we do
         When we delve or hew —
     Hack and rack the growing green!
          Since country is so tender
     To touch, her being só slender,
     That, like this sleek and seeing ball
     But a prick will make no eye at all,
     Where we, even where we mean
                 To mend her we end her,
            When we hew or delve:
After-comers cannot guess the beauty been.
  Ten or twelve, only ten or twelve
     Strokes of havoc unselve
           The sweet especial scene,
     Rural scene, a rural scene,
     Sweet especial rural scene.