Emotional Sounds

Today while sitting with Mr. Bur, I spent some time just listening to the sounds on Morgan Field, and thinking about how they made me feel. For the first half of my time with Mr. Bur today, I listened to the sounds of the modern world. For the second half of my time with Mr. Bur, I focused on the natural sounds.

For the first half of my time with Mr. Bur today, I tried to pick out the sounds I heard that came from the modern world. The first thing I heard were cars. Bur is located near Drayer Hall, and from my spot underneath him, I can see both College Street and High Street. High Street is the main street in Carlisle, and as a result, there is a constant stream of traffic traveling up and down this road. The traffic isn’t particularly loud, but it becomes this constant background noise on Morgan Field. I also heard a lawnmower coming from somewhat far away that added a constant buzzing to the noise-scape. I also heard either a fire engine or ambulance’s sirens, but I never saw which it was. All of the manmade sounds of modernity that I heard while sitting with Mr. Bur were the sounds of everyday life, but when I focused in on them and thought about what they meant, I realized how stressful these sounds are. These sounds from the modern-technological world are around us everyday, but we never really stop and realize how removed from nature these sounds truly are.

For the second half of my time, I switched to listening to the sounds of nature around me. It wasn’t very windy, but I could still hear the rustling of the leaves of Mr. Bur and the trees around him. When I focused on this sound alone, I realized that it had a noticeable calming effect on me. Focusing on the sound of the rustling leaves forced me to stop thinking and worrying, which I d

on’t do enough. I have an extraordinarily busy schedule, so taking the time to sit and listen to nature is not something I get to do very often, so the calming effect was very noticeable. I found myself focusing my breathing and relaxing my muscles—an exercise I learned in one of my psychology classes that I hadn’t done in awhile. I could also hear birds today, which I really enjoyed. Most of the time when I hear birds, I usually ignore it and easily tune it out. Today I made a conscious effort to really listen. Like the sound of the rustling trees, listening to the birds really calmed me down. I spent  half of my time with Mr. Bur today focusing in on the natural sounds around me, and it did relax me, but it also made me feel sad. I felt sad because I realized how much I ignore these sounds. I am often so busy and so preoccupied with my ‘to-do’ lists and homework that I have no extra room in my head for rustling leaves and birdsongs. This is a sad way to live life, but it is the way of life for so many people in this modern world.

Aldo Leopold lived his life somewhat detached from the modern world, and instead surrounded himself with the natural world. Not everyone has to live their life like Aldo Leopold, but I think that it is very important for people to take time out of their busy day, or even week, to return to nature. If people were to devote even just a little bit of their time to getting back in touch with the natural world, I believe they would first feel the same sadness I felt today, but then over time, I think it would be very beneficial. Modernity has brought with it a great deal of anxiety and stress, and based on my experience today, I think that spending time reconnecting with nature could be a very effective way of reducing this stress.

Bur oak bark

Bur oak bark

Leopold, Aldo. 1949. “A Sands County Almanac.” Oxford University Press.

Ash Ketchum

A white ash, otherwise known as the Fraxus Americana is native to North America. Famous for being used in the notorious Louisville Slugger baseball bat, the white ash is a staple of American plant life. A lone white ash stands proudly on the west side of Morgan Field towering over the dormitory as it displays the true power of nature over man. I was first graced with the presence of this mastodon of a tree on September 7th 2015. As the highly qualified arborist explained all of the tree’s special qualities in his Carharts and forest-green Dickinson polo shirt, my eyes began to follow the bark up the trunk and into the vast greenery above.

“Ash Ketchum” I thought to myself as I studied my soon to be wildlife companion. Growing up I had only known one person to ever have the name “Ash,” and he just so happened to be the main character of my favorite cartoon, Pokemon. He would tell people that he, “wanted to be the very best, like no one ever had.” After touring around the immense and diverse plethora of trees on Dickinson’s campus, and seeing 15 other trees that were adequate, I laid eyes on Ash and new immediately that he in fact is the best, like no tree ever was.

Ash is about 60 feet tall and has a diameter at the base of his trunk of about two feet. His species is said to live up to 200 years! I wonder about the things he must have seen through all of his years. I stare from a distance and see that he has many more leaves and branches on his westward facing tangent. I cannot help but think that there must be a scientific explanation for this phenomenon. I walk up close and notice the moss around the roots that snake their way into the ground. Thick ridges weave through each other like knots as they travel up the trunk creating a thick exterior that gives Ash a scaly exterior.

I move closer still and see a small silver disc nailed into Ash’s bark inscribed with the number “253.” Who are the 252 others that came before him? On the other side, a metal wire twists and turns up the bark, and I heard the arborist mention something about a lightning rod used to attract electric currents and send them into the ground. Thinking about the weeks to come, I anticipated the memories that Ash and I will share together. As we travel through the seasons together hopefully we can “Ketchum all!”


Observing the World Through Mr. Bur’s Eyes

As a student of social science, I know how important it is to be observant of the people and spaces around me. I am able to be the most observant when I am alone in a quiet place because I have little to distract me, which allows me to absorb more information and notice little details. I do not have the best memory, so I have found it very useful to keep a notebook with me whenever I am doing observations. I took a qualitative methods course, which helped me develop my observation skills, and I first used a notebook for observations in that class.

I think that Leopold operates in a similar manner when he is observing things in nature. He keeps extraordinary detail, which he is able to do because he keeps a notebook. He is also usually alone in a quiet place when he makes his observations. His essay is remarkably detailed, which makes it interesting to read because you can almost picture being there. I hope to be able to write like that, and I think developing strong observation skills is very important when developing writing skills.

Today I went and sat under my tree (Mr. Bur) for a while, and tried to see how many observations I could make. In the time I sat with Mr. Bur, I counted 22 people who walked by him. It made me wonder how many of those people actually noticed Mr. Bur when they walked by him each day.

Bur Oak in the RainMr. Bur’s leaves are still mostly green, but a few have started to turn a little yellow. I am really excited to see how he looks in a few weeks, as the weather turns cooler. Mr. Bur has furry acorns, but I only counted 12 around his trunk today. The campus arborist, Mark Scott, told us on our tour that the bur oak produces a lot of acorns, but that the squirrels on campus do a pretty good job of collecting them. It is still warm out, but winter is just around the corner. The squirrels are preparing for the approaching winter, and Mr. Bur’s acorns are essential to ensure the squirrels survive the winter.

Different types of qualitative and quantitative data can tell me a lot about how Mr. Bur interacts with the campus and how the campus interacts with him. There was a small amount of acorns around him, which means the squirrels heavily rely on him. Twenty-two students walked by him in the hour I was there, meaning lots of students encounter Mr. Bur each day, even if they don’t notice it. Mr. Bur’s leaves are beginning to turn slightly yellow, which means that fall is coming. Sitting with my tree today was a lot more interesting than I thought it would be. It makes me wonder what types of things he has seen in the years he has been at Dickinson.


Leopold, Aldo. 1949. “A Sands County Almanac.” Oxford University Press.

Numero Tres

Erik Nielsen

Professor Barnum

Environmental Sociology


Tree Blog #2

I would say that my tree is somewhere between 100 – 150 years old, placing its origins somewhere around the 1860’s. Abraham Lincoln had just become the president, and numerous states had left the union. Pennsylvania was on the border of where the union met the confederate states in the civil war, so I like to think that my tree was, in fact, not a racist. It went into its angsty teen’s right around the time that the Civil Rights Act was passed and watched as Dickinson College had its 100 year anniversary since being opened in 1773.

It saw many Dickinsonians pass through the doors of Old West, and even more ye olden squirrels swinging from its branches. Though it wasn’t affected, the tree felt great empathy for its brothers that had been so affected by the Johnston Flood in PA. As the tree grew past its teens, he began look and think past the single confines of the Academic Quads. Passing scholars alerted the tree of historical events occurring, such as the Spanish American War. The tree, with its roots in America, supported the United States in the war, however, it couldn’t help but feel bad for the all of the wooden boats that were being decimated by the newer, industrialized American fleets.

While the tree passed into the 1900’s, he became rather confused by what he heard around the campus. He heard of mass killings in China, then great parties in the 1920’s. He knew of the great depression and the start and end of World War One, but he also heard of the discovery and exploration of the North Pole and the advancement of the airplane since the Wright Brothers first flight on the trees 35th birthday. He pondered how humanity could do so much good while doing so much bad. He heard of the Holocaust wreaking horror while scientists began to attempt to find and eventually produce a vaccine for polio.

The tree served as a refuge for college students just beginning to introduce themselves into the psychedelic 60’s, and later served as refuge for their children while the Berlin Wall fell. He was torn jeans and flannels fade into iphones and vineyard vines. While the world turned, burned, laughed, and cried, the tree just was.

It felt breezes the way that we did, drank water in the same basic nourishing fashion that we did, and experienced growth and renewal all from the sun, all without worrying about its place in life. We begin to feel that we are apart from the life cycle that trees represent, and it isn’t until we find ourselves under the shade of a tree with our phones out of juice that we realize that we are in fact not so different.

Numero Uno

Erik Nielsen

Professor Barnum

Environmental Sociology


Tree Blog #1

I remember one tree that stood close to my house that overlooked my driveway. It was an evergreen in New Hampshire (where my home is) that served as an occasional place of refuge for times when I wished to be alone. When I was standing in the tree, I could view to my left my family’s driveway and all the cars that it catered to roaming faces and sondering minds. On my right is the view of my deck, then past that is quite possibly my favorite view in the entire world. Past my deck and across my lawn is a hole in a cluster of evergreens that looks out from New Hampshire into Vermont. The view holds a farm, some of Vermont’s green mountains, and part of the Connecticut River.

It’s incredibly peaceful knowing that above the tree line that even the state lines drawn by pea-coated, white-wigged men fade into a lush, green valley. The branches on the tree are perfectly sturdy, each one allowing a careful ascent up the tree at the base of the branch, but a rather flimsy midway holding point that is preferably avoided. Small pointy sticks that used to poke my arms while I climbed up the tree have since been broken and discarded, until I recently began to climb back up that same tree this summer.

After a solid six year period of not venturing back up the tree, I began my climb the first day that I came home after my freshman year. The branches still served the as the same sturdy base that they did when I was younger, but the prickly twigs had grown back. As I took another step up the branches and broke the twigs on my forearms and thighs, I began to see that the view had remained the same. The evergreen swayed a little more than I remembered (due to my weight and the tree aging), but the same view from the tree in New Hampshire looking out into the mountains of Vermont made me feel at peace again, similar to how I had felt as a child

Change of scenery


Today when visiting Earnest I decided it would be interesting to look at the world from his view as opposed to viewing him.
When I first arrived at Earnest’s location I noticed he seemed a bit glum. I could empathize with him in regards to myself sometimes feeling a little glum when it rains. As it was slightly wet on the ground nearby, I put my back against Earnest and my bum on the dry ground at his feet. As soon as I sat down my entire perspective was radically different.
Aside from my eye level changing to a lower height, I immediately felt closer to my surroundings. I could no longer see the road or any cars thanks to the concrete wall nestled between Earnest and the road. I could still hear all of the human activity, but simply by NOT seeing it made it much less invasive to the senses. Now my view consisted entirely of Morgan Field and its wonderful abundance of plant life. Although I often wonder if we could have more plant/animal life around campus.
The biggest change I noticed by sitting with Earnest was my increased sensitivity to smell. Immediately I was able to smell more of my surroundings, including the grass, the dirt, and also Earnest himself. He had a mild musty scent with a slight tang that I had never sensed before.
The most obvious change resulting from my observation was the increased frequency with which I saw squirrels. As I watched them scurry from this tree to that tree, I wonder why they have to travel so far between trees. I understand that Dickinson College probably finds large, full-grown, spaced-out trees surrounded by grass, to be much more aesthetically pleasing than a dense forest with little to no patches of grass. However, I also question whether that stance is what’s best for Dickinson College and ALL of its inhabitants. Would students be happier if Morgan Field had closer to 500 trees as opposed to the approximately 100 trees currently dotted around the area?
Not only would students/faculty potentially find it more pleasurable, but the wildlife population would see a huge improvement. With more trees comes more bugs/insects, more bugs leads to an increase in bird life, more birds means more seed dispersal which leads to greater overall beauty. On top of that, more trees mean more nuts which means more squirrels, which also leads to greater seed dispersal. We also all know that trees are our most important carbon sink (meaning it takes CO2 out of the atmosphere). In a town like Carlisle, where the average air quality is extremely low, trees such as Earnest should be given many more neighbors.
As I sit here imagining a glorious forest rising up around me, engulfing everything in beautiful biodiversity, I feel sad. Sad because I know that this will never happen, not just at Dickinson, but everywhere humans inhabit. This is due to man-kinds long history of tree removal, sometimes simply because they were inconvenient to us. We do not seem to value plant-life/trees that do not offer us an immediate ‘good’. While they are the most important carbon sink on the planet, we continue to cut them down at an unprecedented rate.
As soon as I stand back up my imaginary forest falls away before my eyes. Am I a wishful thinker? Or am I a realistic thinker ahead of the curve ball? Only time will tell whether deforestation continues to occur, or whether we will come to our sense and implement a new regime promoting reforestation.




A 360 view,
I have of you.
Magnanimous is your presence,
alas I sense a severance.
Between my friends and yours,
i’ll admit, we are the cause.
We plunder and pillage,
forever expanding our village.
All of Mother Earth’s creation,
a long forgotten sensation.
I have hope for us still,
that nature we won’t kill.
We need a change of system,
I just hope that they listen.

History of Him


About 10 years ago, a beautiful thing occurred. It was sunny day in Carlisle PA, during the month of August; the leaves on all the trees were nice and bright. Dickinson College Campus looked very gorgeous at the time especially Morgan field, but it was about to get a lot more beautiful. He was about 5 feet tall when planted, merely a child at the time with no friends or family. He began to make new friends when the new class of 2005 arrived on Dickinson campus, not only with the students but with the animals as well. He often spent time with some friends that happened to be squirrels; he was too small at the time for the animals to use him as shelter. He enjoyed the company of whoever wanted to spend time with him and grew fairly quickly as a tree, friend and shelter. He was happy to be located where he was because he found the students who lived in Adams hall and Drayer were nicer than the kids who lived in the lower quads.


I am only 10 years older than him, but he his very mature, he has seen a lot over the past 10 years. From new freshmen each year to people just enjoying the sun on the red Adirondack chairs he has always had some company. Thankfully he was not alive during the horrible day known as 9/11, even if he was he would of not understood because of his young age. It would of been tough for such a young tree to cope with something as drastic as that. One day that he will always remember is hurricane sandy back in 2012, we can actually relate because I was a freshmen at the time. He was very scared at the time of the storm, he saw things that no other tree should have to see. Fellow trees of his had arms and limbs being broken off due to the high winds and rain. He was only 7 years old at the time, that’s a lot to handle at that age, but it seems it’s only made him stronger throughout the years and more mature.


The day I met him was a great day in my life, I actually had to win a RPS (rocks, paper, scissors) to claim him as my tree for the semester. As soon as I saw his elegant long leaves I knew we would be great friends, he stood with poise and beauty in the most relaxing place on campus where I like to spend most of my time.

How do you perceive time?


I am unsure as to the age of my tree. I have looked up the average age a London Plane can reach, as it turns out none have been known to die of old age yet. Therefore I have decided to give my tree an age of 80 years old.



The day we first met was a sight to behold. A smeltering 90 degrees, very little wind, and high levels of humidity, combined with 15 lethargic bodies shifting sullenly under the sun.
However long before that glorious September 7th Monday, and long before I made my way to Dickinson College two and a half years ago, you have existed. Seeing time pass by one season to the next, but witnessing change happen around you regarding structures/roads, at much more rapid rates and much slower rates.
For instance, when the new library was built right in front of you it must have driven your friends crazy! The view you had of that process was one to envy, and I am sure Mr Oak was very jealous. You will have being witness to the changes of not just buildings and infrastructure, but rather the huge change in the student life and their activities. From what I have heard about Dickinson College in the 80’s it seemed to be quite a hoot, as I am sure you know from first-hand experience. There must have been many a night when you were silently slumbering only to be awoken by an idiotic inebriated imbecile impatiently relieving himself on either you or your poor neighbor.

As you track back through your memory log (pun intended), I wonder whether your recollections are based on human infrastructure and growth, changing ecosystems around you over time, or from one weather extreme to the next indicating key moments in your history and what made you you.

When I consider your history I am astonished to imagine your birthday. I am even more astonished to imagine what your memories must hold of the past. Not just events in history but rather human habits and their change over the past 80 years. How have lifestyles have dramatically developed for either the better or worse. The introduction of technology and how we as a race have entirely changed what our day-to-day life revolves around. Have you seen an increase or decrease in peoples attraction to you or your friends? Was there an era where we seemed to be MORE in touch with what it means to be a part of nature and not its executioner?


The more I consider your long life-time here in Carlisle PA, the harder I find it to decide your notion of time. What I mean is that because you lead a much less movement-based lifestyle does that mean that you experience time in a different way to human beings. While we humans tend to live very in-the-moment, due mainly to the busy lifestyles that a capitalist society enforces us to take a part in, I wonder if you as a tree live much more out-of-the-moment. Perhaps an entire 24-hour day that we experience, when compared with your experience, is but a brief moment only made relevant by extreme conditions or experiences.



0-22 years old Zacc Dwan:                                       0-80 years old London Plane:
Light.                                                                            S
Cry.                                                                               E
Speak.                                                                          L
Chew.                                                                           F
Ask.                                                                               L
School.                                                                         E
Friends.                                                                       S
Sport.                                                                           S
Injury.                                                                          .

Introducing Earnest


Today I decided to go visit my tree from a purely physical stance, I also decided to name my tree Earnest.
From a distance this tree is fairly impressive, bearing down on us from a height of approximately 40-50ft this giant London Plane tree is a hybrid sharing its genes with the American Sycamore tree. It seems to have grown in a way conducive to the presence of the road and through-traffic, with its two largest and lowest hanging branches stretching parallel to the road. However it definitely has a slight lean over the footpath beneath lending some of its weight to the concrete wall running down West High Street and providing some shelter and protection to pedestrians. Its branches spread in every direction to form a maximum width of roughly 40ft, it looks like a very good tree to climb if I can make it past the first 20ft.

The first thing I noticed about this tree was its inconsistency in texture and color scheme. At the base of the tree the color is a scattered mixture ranging from dark green to light brown, however the texture is by far the most impressive. There are hundreds of small pieces of bark peeling off of the tree trunk like a giant snake getting rid of its old scales in preparation for a harsh winter. There a multiple patches of green moss growing near ground level, especially where the tree meets the concrete wall. There are dozens of ball-like knots dotted around the tree trunk up to about head height. They range in size from a golf ball to some as large as a tennis ball.








When I am cold, I shiver

When you are cold, you shed

When I am warm, I sweat

When you are warm, you blossom

When I am wet, I dry

When you are wet, you absorb

When I am tired, I sleep

When you are tired, you droop

When I stumble, I pick myself up

When you stumble, no one is there to help

When I cut myself, I heal

When someone cuts you, you don’t.









In this above photo I feel as though a face can be made out from underneath all the knotted wood-balls.

The higher up my eyes travel the lighter tone my tree takes on. This is due to many factors including that my tree often changes color schemes depending on its environment and the quality of the surrounding air. This particular species is very good at cleaning out toxins and particulate matter that has been absorbed into the atmosphere. According to our own landscapers; that is why in Carlisle these trees should become a priority because as we all know, the average air quality in Carlisle is poor when compared to many other areas in Pennsylvania let alone other states.
























History of my Tree

15 years ago, something special happened. It was a warm day in May, not a cloud in the sky. It was no ordinary day for the Dickinson arborist. He didn’t realize it at the time, but he had just planted what was going to be one of the most beautiful trees on campus. Though a slow grower, by age one, she was already a proud 2 feet tall. She struggled early on because she was an only child. She has never met her parents and was left alone to fend for herself. But this only made her stronger. Large winds came and went and molded her into a character. Though she sometimes swayed back and forth, my tree always managed to straighten herself out when she needed to. By the age of 10, she had already grown about 12 feet. She had made friends with other orphans that had been planted under her. She was like a mother to these young plants and often gave up water in order to feed them. I think the fact that she does not need much water to live tells us a lot about her personality.

November 2012 was a rough time for my tree. Struck hard by Hurricane Sandy many of her friends died due to the wretched winds. She herself almost collapsed but her roots dug in deep and her trunk held strong. This was a turning point in her life. Surviving Sandy was a sign that she was destined to be great! By 2015 she was a shocking 7 meters tall. She was lonely though. When I met Isabel (my tree) she was working hard to get her life back together.



I realized I had to spend time with her and help her achieve greatness. Everyday since I have met her, I see her mentally growing. The dirt under her is starting to mold to the shape of my butt, because she does often give me shade, similar to the Giving Tree.