A Threat to Dickinson’s Diversity

After having spent three months visiting, observing, and thinking about my giant sequoia I have come to better understand 4 major observations about Dickinson College: 1. Diversity matters. 2. The best communicators listen well. 3. Collecting your thoughts alone is important. 4. Being small is great. The first observation connects the college’s goal of inclusiveness to the fact that the sequoia’s presence on campus diversifies our tree inventory. The second observation points out that trees need to listen to nature around them in order to adapt to changing environmental conditions for survival. If the wind tells the trees that a storm is coming, they must prepare to stand their ground; and if the birds are chirping then it must be morning or daytime which means that the tree should find the sun for food. The third observation stems from visiting my tree at its somewhat isolated location. Just like a tree takes in all of its immediate surroundings, so do we. The more we allow our thoughts and observations about our surroundings percolate, the greater meaning we can draw from them and the greater our ability to put ourselves into perspective with the rest of the world. The fourth observation stems from the college’s physical campus size as well as population. The tree’s tiny physical appearance in comparison to neighboring trees on the field, represents the beginning stages of adapting to change. Dickinson students gain the skillsets and the confidence to pursue future aspirations in the real world because of the academic opportunities to collaborate closely with peers and faculty at the college. Similarly, my tree is still growing and preparing for the future by building up its strength and fine tuning its systems of survival. Meanwhile, small trees temporarily use less resources than larger trees and require less upkeep. My tree has actually been growing vigorously since it was planted in 2012 growing at least a foot and a half in 3 years. My sequoia’s growth in the past few years serves as proof that it grows well in this valley region despite its roots all the way out in Oregon. My tree belongs at Dickinson for its ability to prosper here and contribute to the student perspective here.

We are not nature’s exception.

The Landscape.

The Landscape.

The Human Exceptionalism Paradigm (HEP) refers to the set of principles that argue that human culture makes us unique and thus, we can work outside of the environment to evolve socially and make progress (Catton and Dunlap 1978). The HEP means bad news for my tree because this model justifies humans’ exploitation and destruction of nature while failing to identify the value of preserving the natural world. The New Environmental Paradigm (NEP) refers to the set of principles that argue the limits of economic growth and social progress with the assumption that humans are connected to a chain of interdependence among all other forms of life on Earth (Catton and Dunlap 1978). NEP suggests that humans will not survive if they expect to live independent of nature, therefore humans must take care of the environment that they are part of.

The NEP is more relevant to my tree and to the world today due to humans’ ability to change the environment and humans’ failure to adjust to environmental changes. My tree, the giant sequoia is native to the western U.S. so in order for it to be planted in Carlisle, PA, humans had to partially grow one out west before shipping it to Pennsylvania where it was planted on our campus. My tree represents humans trying to control nature and thus creating disturbances in natural cycles and ecosystems that impact our environment. The idea of landscaping in the first place is humans’ idea of destroying the wild environment that once existed and replacing it with their own vision of nature that cannot fully replicate wild nature without negative environmental impacts. Another example where the NEP relates directly to the situation is our global water usage remains highly wasteful, corrupt, unregulated, and disillusioned which results in the scarcity of water in certain locations around the world. The NEP relates most to this situation because no matter how much we improve our technology and our ability to capture, filter, and distribute water, we will always be sharing this precious resource with all life on Earth and we will always be working with the same finite amount of water. The most relevant paradigm to humans today defines the relationship between humans and the environment as inseparable forcing us to realize our impacts on the environment add up to irreversible changes for all life on Earth.

 

Works Cited

Catton, William and Riley Dunlap. 1978. “Environmental Sociology: A New Paradigm.” The

American Sociologist. 13:41-49.

How wood you value trees?

As a kid, trees had an obvious high use-value because we used trees to play in, to hang swings from, and to collect dead branches from for building. As I grew up, the way I saw trees and valued them changed. Now, I see trees as beautiful pieces of nature and huge inputs in many of the goods Americans want to buy. To explore the use-value of my tree, it is best to consider my giant sequoia as a symbol of what trees can do for humans in general. This view remains more impactful than examining a single tiny tree on a college campus because one of my trees could not satisfy the wants of even a single person today. My tree may not grow fruit nor grow harvestable (for profit) wood but I consider my tree part of an ecosystem where every organism plays a crucial role to the rest’s survival. Therefore, my tree’s use-value lies in its interdependence with the survival of surrounding organisms that provide services to me like cleaner air, greener landscapes, parks, and goods.

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One giant sequoia tree.

In terms of satisfying human wants on a local or campus level in Carlisle, one tree still has low use-value compared to forests, tree farms, and other areas with many trees that can provide the resources needed to satisfy the wants of local populations. Trees provide a wealth of services to the individual such as helping to keep atmospheric carbon dioxide levels low enough to maintain livable conditions for life on Earth. I don’t think my tree nor any group of trees in Carlisle, PA have value to manufacturers. It is more common for locals to use trees for firewood or for landscaping.

In terms of the global ecosystem and in extreme circumstances, my tree’s death could lead to disruption to the global ecosystem. For instance, if my tree died, and the organisms that needed it to survive also died, then there would be a gap in the local ecosystem. The interconnectedness of the global ecosystem means that eventually that gap in Carlisle’s ecosystems could create gaps in ecosystems regionally, statewide, and countrywide. Ecosystems worldwide can be impacted by a ripple effect due to deforestation and small scale tree destruction.

In terms of the world, my tree alone is basically negligible except in the context of an interconnected ecosystem where all parts are necessary for the system to survive. The number of living trees in the world matters to humans because we want ecotourism, furniture, paper, lumber, and food to satisfy wants as consumers. Particularly now, we want trees to help remove carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere to help reduce the effects of climate change. The overall use-value of my tree is extremely high because humans’ dependence on trees as inputs for most of the goods we use daily and as environmental filters of carbon dioxide.

Field Notes: Standing Still

November 1, 2015 3:00pm During this observation, I sat quietly on the steps of Allison Hall with a clear view of my giant sequoia and the area around it was quiet. Today’s weather remained mild with partly sunny skies and gentle, tickling winds complemented by crisp dry air. At first, no visitors approached my tree but I soon realized that my vision had deceived me. I saw no visitor next to my tree but I soon realized that the sun was its first visitor. Even though the sun had greeted my tree early this morning, the sun stayed for most of the day. The sun’s rays beamed warmth and light straight down into the sequoia’s needles, down every curve of every branch, down its thick limbs, finally seeping down the trunk and into the ground where even the roots felt a gradual temperature increase. The sun’s warming and illumination of the tree made it feel sedated and dreaming of forested land with no sign of man in sight. The interaction between the sun and my tree outlasted all human interactions with the sequoia and there are a number of reasons for this inconsistency.

A portrait of the giant sequoia.

A portrait of the giant sequoia.

Fairly frequently, I glance at my tree as I pass coming and going but only for moments at a time whereas the sun gives my tree uninterrupted attention for hours at a time and more regularly. Taking photos of my tree require a little more than a few moments of eye contact however this time I approach the tree and diverge from my routine route. I often move close-up to the tree to capture its different angles and textures. Rarely do I touch any part of the tree, but when I brushed up against a few of its lower branches today, I witnessed the tree shake briefly and return back to its original position. A series of brief interactions between man and nature help explain the selfless personality I sensed within my tree today.

From what I can tell, the sequoia remains unmoved by both the sun and me so it must also be a forgiving tree. If it were not so forgiving and patient with each of its visitors, then why would it continue to provide shade, absorption of carbon dioxide, and aesthetics? Organisms rely on my tree year round for these services and sometimes provide no daily service in return. My tree openly received all forms of interaction today, from direct sunshine to human staring to gusty airflows. Not only does my tree accept these temporal interactions from man and nature but it also passively accepts the more permanent interactions with the soil and the living organisms underground. Rooted in place, constantly in contact with the dirt, the mulch, and the creatures crawling beneath the surface, my tree remains unmoved. No matter how cold the ground feels or how long the insect travels on the surface of the sequoia’s skin, it remains unmoved. My tree appears so strong because of its ability to deal with so many interactions at once while maintaining a calm disposition. My observations suggest that although my tree’s lack of expression leads to an inability to empathize, it will outlast many of its fellow flora and fauna due to its immovable presence.

Field Notes: Physical and Spiritual Events

Saturday, October 24, 2015 at 2:00pm While sitting on the green grass in the crisp cool fall air with my giant sequoia, I realized how lonely my tree must feel on Saturday afternoons. Despite inanimate surroundings like buildings, trees, or shrubs and moving parts of our surroundings like the squirrels, birds, or humans, isolation still occurs on a daily basis. There is not a moment in the day when a building or another tree actually notices my giant sequoia. Because my tree has a very limited ability to interact with others (living and non-living), the sequence of events I was able to observe today came from physical changes in my tree’s behavior and deep analysis of my tree’s spirit.

A crisp fall day.

A crisp fall day.

Since a tree’s growth cannot be observed in minutes or even hours, non-developmental movements create some of the most exciting moments in my sequoia’s day, especially during this time of year. I witnessed a series of handshakes between the gentle wind gusts and the branches of my tree where they seemed to have met before so each shake remained brief and confidently forceful. The air grasped several branches with enough force to send a gradual wave-like shiver down the arms of the tree into the trunk. The tree’s structure provides adequate protection and flexibility to the branches to survive these handshakes and other natural forces. The flesh of each green needle grows in a staggered and reinforcing pattern around each limb of the tree which contributes to the tree’s strength against other more powerful forces.

Close-up of the tree's needles.

Close-up of the tree’s needles.

Underneath the needles and the bark, this giant sequoia has a living spirit constantly reacting to the physical conditions of the tree, especially when changes are detected. As my tree adapts to the colder temperatures and the cloudier days, an essential part of its day is time spent visualizing. In order to maintain its health and ability to grow, my tree relies on visualization to feel warm enough to eat, drink, and breathe at times when the weather fails to provide vital warmth and light. I interpreted some of the moments when my tree stood silent and still as visualization sessions where the sequoia was imagining a bright yellow sun and a warm summer breeze to distract itself from the overcast and chilly atmosphere. Of course, not all moments of my tree’s silent and calm existence translated into visualization because I also noticed a deeper need transpiring.

Silent and still.

Silent and still.

After a few cycles of the handshakes and visualization tricks, my sequoia started to sit unusually calm for longer periods of time while a family took portraits on the field behind it. Sometimes the wind would reach out for a handshake and my tree would remain frozen, as if lost in thought. Longing for interaction and comforting warmth from others, my tree sat frozen for the majority of my time with it. Not only did my tree desire to gain attention but it also lacked the feeling of being wanted and needed by others. Unlike the trees behind the sequoia that played important roles in each of the photographs that the family took, my tree remained distanced from them and as a result, irrelevant to them.

Field Notes From a Giant Sequoia Part One: Me & My Home

Beautiful sun shining day.

Beautiful sun shining day.

October 11, 2015 4:15pm Dickinson College Morgan Field, Carlisle, PA On a clear, sunny, mildly warm day, I find myself in great company with students, children and their families, adults, and animals (mainly squirrels). The great paved walking path separates me from the main lawn so, from yards away, I observe the studiers, readers, talkers, laughers, photographers, commuters, runners, nappers, and those of us more permanent residents. Humans seldom approach me but I can tell by the beaten path of dead grass and packed dirt in front of me that they travel across the lawn where I live frequently. I am yards away from the steps of Allison Hall, about a quarter of a football field away from a residence hall, and about half a football field away from the closest public street where cars pass daily. The buildings, or towering giants, I stare at everyday have matching grey stone exteriors, many windows, and multiple doors. Students trickle in and out of both buildings and stroll down the path appearing quite calm and content as the sun continues to set. Despite my proximity to the modern world, I live in a fairly undisturbed corner of campus with comfortable space to breathe in.

 

My neighbors.

My neighbors.

Although I live among several trees, none of them encroach on my personal space. My closest neighbors have taller and wider shadows than me but their shadows don’t shade my branches. I notice the following today: very few dead brown leaves covering the ground, red and purple berries ripening, and the changing colors of the leaves from green to red, orange, or yellow. Some of my taller, older tree neighbors have grown long branches that reach outward, gently sloping downward showing gravity’s toll on their bodies. We all look grander and happier today because the grass is soft, lush, and bright green for the most part. The combination of the picturesque cloudless day and the well-maintained lawn certainly showcases my better features.

 

 

 

My trunk and needles.

My trunk and needles.

I have grown into one of the most recognizable shapes in America: a Christmas tree! With my thin milky brown trunk and my fine asparagus green needles, I look particularly healthy. Even the small circle of greyish brown mulch around my trunk sparkles in the sunlight today. I have soft little green, husk-like needles covering my entire body and they all point up and away from me. The bottom portion of my trunk still has rough bark attached to it but the upper half of my trunk has a smoother texture and reflects more sunlight as a result. The visible gaps between my branches expose my semi-bare trunk in the direct sunlight. I tend to feel less of the breeze than I think my fellow arbres (trees) do because my branches allow more wind to pass through them and I have a much lower center of gravity. The wind has shaken me twice in fifteen minutes but I stand sturdy and enjoy partial protection from the grassy hill adjacent from my spot on the lawn. If only everyday could look and feel this good.

Sound and Noise

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A tree is always looking up and opening up to the world. Open to listening and experiencing the world. So receptive to sound. Standing silent.

Considering the mass destruction to civilization that the world faced after World War II, Leopold writes A Sand County Almanac and Sketches Here and There in a way that connects his observations to society’s view of mechanization and nature. Human relationships with the mechanized world tend to evoke feelings of defeat whereas relationships with the natural world tend to evoke peace and longevity. Leopold pits nature against mechanization to demonstrate defeat: “It is easy now to predict the future; for a few years my Silphium will try in vain to rise above the mowing machine, and then it will die” (1968:46). By telling this story, he paints a picture of a seemingly powerless plant that dies at the hands of the man and his all-powerful mowing machine. Perhaps Leopold’s believes that machines have the power to destroy all nature and we need to move closer to nature and away from machines in fear of further world destruction. This view of man’s relationship with nature suggests that hearing sounds associated with the natural world bring us closer to peace with nature and help relieve us of the harmful effects of mechanization.

The other point Leopold makes in his depiction of the woods contrasts the control that machines have over our lives and the lack of constraints in nature. His observation about hearing the unknown suggests that sounds in nature spark curiosity: “The chit-chat of the woods is sometimes hard to translate” (1968:85).  In contrast, the noise of the mower causes fear and concern as it threatens plants. Leopold finds more tranquility which allows him to contemplate in the sounds of nature than in the noise of the mechanized world.

After observing the sounds of nature and human-related sounds with my tree, I tend to agree with Leopold’s depiction of the two disparate worlds. The constant chirping of the crickets create a peaceful background melody for my observation which made me feel relaxed and more disconnected from the modern world. When I heard the crunching of dead leaves on the ground as people walked by, I remembered the wonderful gifts that autumn brings like the changing colors of the leaves and pumpkins. The faint chirping of birds and the sounds of squirrels scurrying up and down the trees reminded me of how alive my tree’s natural environment really is. Almost all of the sounds from the modern world except for human voices conflicted with these positive feelings and images that I associated with nature. The building door slams, the motorcycle engines, and the beeps of cars or key card access technology disturbed my otherwise relaxing experience sitting with my tree. The noises of the modern world conflict with the freeing experience of listening to nature because the mechanized world reminds us of our daily obligations that create stress in our lives. Take some time to sit with a tree and listen to nature but also listen to what nature has to say about the modern world.

Observing Nature Like Leopold

The physical conditions under which I think best tend to be quiet and calm. Concentrating on my work is easier when visual distractions are minimized such as other people and moving objects. Open space is more comfortable than crowded space and keeps me calm in order to concentrate more easily on my thoughts. I concentrate best in naturally lit areas during daylight hours because the sun has a revitalizing power. If sunlight is unavailable, I prefer bright yellow tinted lighting shining directly on my work space. Soft background noise or silence allows me to easily focus and think deeply. When thinking analytically and scientifically I need a notebook at all times to record any immediate thoughts and to take methodical notes.

Leopold demonstrates scientific thinking mainly through meticulous observation and making logical connections and conclusions, as he describes life on his family’s sand farm in Wisconsin. Leopold expresses curiosity in tracing the paths of animals and the “life” non-living organisms like plants. Familiarizing himself with the sights, sounds, and sensations of nature, Leopold records his observations in A Sand County Almanac with great attention to detail. He uses the observable characteristics of a wooden board like “kind,” “dimensions,” “nails,” “paint,” “finish,” and “decay” (Leopold 1968:25) to trace the board’s previous travels. He demonstrates scientific thinking by hypothesizing that the board rode many floods based on its location and the scrape markings on the board’s sides (Leopold 1968:25). Another example of Leopold’s thick descriptive observations depict an autumn day: “Troops of robins are stripping the last white berries from the dogwood thickets, leaving the empty stems as a pink haze against the hill” (1968:55). The vivid records he keeps of his observations in nature lay a solid foundation for deeper probing of a particular natural phenomena or question. Scientific processes begin and often end with a question so the more the scientist flushes out his observations, the deeper his analysis can be and the more interesting his questions become.

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Field Notes from Observation Session One 10/11/15 4:15pm-5:00pm Morgan Field, Dickinson College

45 minutes spent on a Sunday evening in October, sitting alone next to my tree on Morgan Field.

Weather conditions: clear blue skies, light wind, moderate temperature, sunny

Nature: uneven terrain, fallen leaves brown/dead, berries on trees, squirrels on ground and climbing trees, gnats, flies,

Unnatural: Allison Hall- grey stone walls with surrounding landscaping, columns, multiple floors, A/C units, windows, multiple doors; Witwer Hall- grey stone walls with surround landscaping, columns, multiple floors, A/C units, windows, multiple doors, bike rack; paved pathways, adirondack chairs, benches, parking lots, lamp posts

Sounds: constant cricket chirping, distant bird calls, squirrel call, laughter, talking voices, car/motorcycle driving, skateboard rolling, car unlocking, scooter rolling

Sensations: wind, warmth of sun, softness of grass, coolness of air

No distinct smells.

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Saw females, males, adults, kids, students, parents, Asians, African Americans and whites.

Everyone traveling on the paths walked leisurely except one girl on a scooter.

2 Families taking pictures of kids dressed up.

7 People enter Witwer Hall.

Of them 2 enter wearing a backpack.

3 People exit Witwer Hall.

16 Most people sitting or lying down on Morgan Field at once.

(Eating, talking, working on laptop or written work, sleeping)

5 People cut across the grass in front of my tree.

Works Cited

Leopold, Aldo. 1968. A Sand County Almanac and Sketches Here and There. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Keeper of Records

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GIANT Sequoia.

One way to locate a tree is by tracing its place in history from the time it was planted to the tree’s death. Another way to locate a tree is by assigning it a position on a map which defines the tree’s local surroundings. When telling the biography of a tree, it is important to consider the events that the tree has witnessed as well as those events that have impacted the tree’s environment, or surroundings. In this case, I will depict historical college news as well as significant dates in my life and in national headlines that the sequoia’s rings represent. Since I have only lived at Dickinson College for a year, I have collected stories from the school’s newspaper, The Dickinsonian, to recount significant events on campus during 2012 and 2013.

In 2012, the year that my giant sequoia was planted on Morgan Field at Dickinson, Hurricane Sandy hit the Northeast causing tremendous chaos and damage to cities near the coast. The intensity of the storm proved so powerful that Dickinson closed all of its classes on October 30 (Felmann 2012). Since my tree originally grew in Oregon before it was shipped to Pennsylvania, the storm must have made the sequoia’s adjustment period more difficult by drenching it with wind and rain. Imagine moving across the country for the first time and within your first few months of settling in your new home (which happens to be an open field), a hurricane hits. Also during October, Dickinson announced its 28th president, Nancy A. Roseman, who is the college’s first female president (Fineberg 2012). In bigger presidential news, America re-elected President Barrack Obama for his 2nd term in office (USA Today 2012). A national tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School, where a violent shooting took place, raised an uproar of concerns and questions about gun laws in America that continues to be a hot topic today (USA Today 2012). This was a year of opportunities for me since I traveled to France for an 8 day homestay with French speaking Parisians and I traveled to Disney World in Florida with my high school orchestra to compete and tour the parks.

In 2013, Dickinson College bought the church on Morgan Field that is now Allison Hall (Korb 2013). As a result, more people have walked past my tree because it sits in front of Allison Hall. Environmental activist Bill McKibben visited classes, attended lunches with students and faculty, and addressed the college community in a public lecture during his residency at the college in the spring of 2013 (Hardison 2013). This year international figures seemed to dominate the headlines with the change of Popes from Benedict XVI to Francis and the birth of the royal baby Prince George (HISTORY 2013). 2013, the first half of my senior year of high school, proved especially busy because of the task of selecting a college to attend and playing varsity soccer as team captain. This season also overlapped with my 18th birthday, signifying my entrance into adulthood.

During my first year as a student at Dickinson, another established expert in environmental activism visited campus to talk about global climate change and his latest work on glacial melting. James Balog, the voice of the powerful documentary Chasing Ice, spent a short time at Dickinson interacting with students and faculty as well as presenting his findings on melting ice. Carlisle, PA endured a long winter that stretched from the holiday season of 2014 into the spring of 2015 where snow covered the ground for several weeks at a time. Some of the major national headliners of 2014 casted upsetting and concerning shadows over the world announcing deadly virus, inexplicable deaths, social injustice, and threats of terrorism. We watched the Ebola outbreak unfold in West Africa, enter the US, and dissolve in the US when the infected Americans left hospitals healthy. A Malaysian airlines flight mysteriously disappeared and left many questions unanswered among the victims’ families. After a white police officer shot and killed unarmed Michael Brown, a national surge in protests sparked heated debate over issues of race and other institutional issues particularly in American cities. Americans also watched and continue to watch the rise of terror overseas as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria gain media attention worldwide for violent and disturbing demonstrations of radical ideology (Leitsinger 2014). In addition to starting my college career, this is also the year that I bought my first smart phone. Another first occurred this year: I made my Squash debut on Dickinson’s first varsity women’s squash team.

Our college campus was buzzing with excitement in the spring of 2015 due to the anticipation and preparations for commencement which included the speaker Mark Ruffalo. The excitement continues this fall as the Dickinson community awaits Mark Ruffalo’s residency this fall. In national current events, the 2016 presidential race has already begun with two presidential debates completed. Another hot topic making international headlines is climate change in anticipation of the biggest climate conference in the world which will meet in Paris this winter. Fall 2015 represents a huge stepping stone in my life as I enter my sophomore year of college with a double major and take on an internship at the college’s Center for Sustainability.

Since meeting my tree in mid-September this year, I have realized the value in observing trees but also appreciating them more. Trees, like books, are record keepers and story tellers that can teach humans about their own race and about nature.

 

Works Cited

Feldmann, Janie. 2012. “Hurricane Closes Campus.” The Dickinsonian. October 31, pp. 1.

Fineberg, Emily. 2012. “College President Announced: Dr. Nancy A. Roseman Named Dickinson College’s 28th President.” The Dickinsonian. October 31, pp. 1.

Hardison, Lizzy. 2012. “The Currency of Movement.” The Dickinsonian. April 18, pp. 1.

HISTORY. 2013. “This Year in History: 2013.” HISTORY, December 31. Retrieved September 30, 2015 (http://www.history.com/news/this-year-in-history-2013)

Korb, Matthew. 2012. “We Bought a Church.” The Dickinsonian. January 30, pp. 1.

Leitsinger, Miranda. 2014. “Year in Review: The Top Stories of 2014.” NBC News, December 31. Retrieved September 30, 2015 (http://www.nbcnews.com/storyline/2014-year-in-review/year-review-top-stories-2014-n271746)

USA Today. 2012. “Poll Ranks Top 10 News Stories of 2012.” USA Today, December 12. Retrieved September 30, 2015 (http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/2012/12/20/year-top-news/1783303/)

Humans Don’t Notice But Trees Grow Taller And Richer In Good Health

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Some of the dead brown parts of my tree.

If you have ever strolled through Morgan Field in autumn before the leaves have fallen, you may have noticed the numerous trees lining the walkway. Hidden behind a hill in front of Allison and Witwer Halls lives a giant sequoia. Planted 7 years ago, this tree stands only a few feet taller than the average person, despite its name. The widest point of the sequoia’s Christmas tree shape measures approximately 5.5 feet which is a relatively small diameter when compared to some of its towering neighbors. The expected height of my adopted tree is about 100 feet however giant sequoias in California have been known to reach heights of well over 200 feet. A closer look at the branches of this tree reveals countless tiny green needles like hair growing on the arms of the tree. Some of the needles appear brown and dead but the majority of the tree’s branches look healthy. A rough greyish bark covers the trunk and branches. A circle of mulch surrounds the tree trunk where one can observe its firmly established roots. Upon further inspection of the tree trunk, I noticed some sap dripping from the bark; and in the sunlight, it appeared very syrup-like. A few spiders have woven webs among the branches of the sequoia but not in a disruptive manner.

Not only is it important to notice and admire the physical beauty of our trees, but it is also valuable to us to understand them in order to deepen our appreciation. Nationally acclaimed nature writer, Aldo Leopold, exposes readers to his understandings of nature and his appreciations of how the natural world functions in A Sand County Almanac and Sketches Here and There. One unique feature of the sequoia tree is that it uses its needles to drink water as opposed to pulling water up from the ground for nutrients. Ignorance to the fact that my tree uses its arms, or branches, to collect water for survival would blind me from seeing how I can relate to this tree. The act of stopping and pondering nature proves powerful for humans when they are able to draw connections between their observations and the significance of these observations. Leopold (1968:8) reminds us that a tree’s rings tell a biography of the world that the tree has lived through. Looking at my tree and assigning physical characteristics to it made me realize that like Leopold’s oak, my tree was, in a sense, looking at me and at the world. Old growth tree in particular remain some of the oldest eyes in the world because they witness everything around them and contain stories of the past and present.

Quiet corner of Morgan Field.

Quiet corner of Morgan Field.

Symbolically, humans look up to the trees as fortified structures of nature that continually provide resources and services for others. My adopted giant sequoia quietly resides behind a hill on Morgan Field and can easily be overlooked for its youthful state. Although my tree is just one example of an overlooked tree, it represents our relationship with most trees, big and small. Humans constantly harvest trees for resources to create goods that we value so deeply yet we do not question or fully appreciate the value of the tree first. Leopold (1968:7) notices a similar behavior in his dog towards another giving member of nature, fire: “My dog does not care where heat comes from, but he cares ardently that it come, and soon.” Will humans continue to impatiently seek the fire without asking where it comes from and how it provides the essentials of warmth and light?

 

Works Cited

Leopold, Aldo. 1968. A Sand County Almanac and Sketches Here and There. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.