|Old Doug Fir at Deception Pass - Lainey Piland photo|
"A weird, lovely, fantastic object out of nature... has the curious ability to remind us -- like rock and sunlight and wind and wilderness -- that out there is a different world, older and greater and deeper by far than ours, a world which surrounds and sustains the little world of men as sea and sky surround and sustain a ship."
~ Edward Abbey, Desert SolitaireEdward Abbey was speaking of the red rocks and arches in the desert southwest, but I can fully relate to the phenomenon he's describing: the sudden deepening of perception and the recognition of our place in space and time that often arises while we're in the great outdoors, in the midst of nature.
This realization, this expansion of awareness, typically occurs for me in the middle of a forest. My favorite place to be. I see trees towering overhead and feel suddenly small as I stand at their feet, squinting toward the uppermost branches which seem to get lost in the sky. In old growth forests especially, I feel keenly aware of some commanding, eternal presence permeating the air, apparently emanating from the massive old trees themselves.
In a way, these trees can connect us in space to a past from which we have been separated by time. You look at an old growth tree and can't help but wonder at the fact that this tree has been standing here in the same place for centuries, witnessing the comings and goings of a world that has been around long before each of us came into existence. While humans have been hunting and gathering, building civilizations, conquering new territories, manufacturing machines, going to war, and inventing the internet, this tree has quietly been going about its own business of inhaling carbon dioxide, exhaling oxygen, and photosynthesizing sunlight into food. In fact, when looking at the physical substance of the tree, you might say that what you're actually seeing is several hundred years' worth of accumulated sunshine transformed into wood, bark, branches and needles.
The more we ponder the greater natural world around us, the more it reveals itself to be "weird, lovely, and fantastic," indeed.
|The decaying trunk of an old-growth Doug fir nourishes new trees - what will they see in their long lifetimes? - Lainey Piland photo|