|Sunday May 13, 2018|
San Antonio Express News
Haskell examines the lives of a dozen trees located in diverse environments from the Amazon jungle to the boreal Canadian forests and beyond. Through lyrical prose he interprets the trees’ physiognomy in a framework that we humans can understand.
The first composition is performed by a colossal ceibo tree near the Yasuni Biosphere Reserve in western Ecuador. The ceibo illustrates the immense diversity present in the Amazon jungle. When it rains, as it does every few hours, the drops encounter various objects—leaves, wings of bats, soft moss bellies, epiphyte cups—that contribute their distinct melodies. From microbes to mammals, the ceibo supports thousands of species of life. The Amazon is a tightly woven canticle of extraordinary strength. Its long-term survival is threatened by mankind’s voracious appetite for resource consumption.
Over 3,000 miles from the ceibo in the Canadian boreal forest, tinkling sounds from the crown of a monstrous balsam fir signals the presence of chickadees rummaging its cones for sustenance. Avian memories are preserved both in the chickadees’ minds and in their social network. The balsam fir manifests memory, as well, in its ability to generate genetic diversity.
Next on the tour is the sabal palm of St. Catherine’s Island, Georgia, a tree that survives hardships that would defeat almost any other species. With rising sea levels, the sabal palm demonstrates the kind of adaptation that humans would be wise to emulate.
An elegy for Tennessee’s green ash tree follows, then the artistry of Japan’s mitsumata, and the impact of Scotland’s hazel tree on modern society.
The American giants, ponderosa pines and redwoods, illustrate the effects of fire and the progression of climate change, while the life cycle of maple trees serves a more practical purpose.
More lessons in nature follow—Denver’s cottonwoods, Jerusalem’s olive trees, and Manhattan’s pear trees. All possess a distinctive, unique sound, an ensemble of melodious voices contributing to the overall harmony of the collective.
“In all these places,” writes Haskell, “tree songs emerge from relationship. Although tree trunks seemingly stand as detached individuals, their lives subvert this atomistic view. Life is embodied network.”
Haskell believes that all life on this planet is interconnected and that humans do not exist separately and apart from nature—we are part of nature. Our self-serving actions to reap nature’s bounties are imperiling our planet and interfering with the harmonious balance of biological networks.
“To listen to trees, nature’s great connectors,” concludes Haskell, “is therefore to learn how to inhabit the relationships that give life its source, substance, and beauty.”