The Overstory

Photo by Rose @Amherst, MA
8/6/2017 1:12 PM

A miraculous read from my journey to environmental humanity and planetary wellness. The Spirit of trees is constantly telling us stories and hidden Truths our eyes cannot reach. There is no meaning in its form; rather, it’s the experience of what it called Life that made all living beings unimaginably complex or too often left obscured to be fathomed in the Way of Nature and plant consciousness…

Richard Powers & Bill McKibben Discuss The Overstory | JCCSF
  • Something in the air’s scent commands the woman: Close your eyes and think of willow. The weeping you see will be wrong. Picture an acacia thorn. Nothing in your thought will be sharp enough. What hovers right above you? What floats over your head right now—now? Trees even farther away join in: All the ways you imagine us—bewitched mangroves up on stilts, a nutmeg’s inverted spade, gnarled baja elephant trunks, the straight-up missile of a sal—are always amputations. Your kind never sees us whole. You miss the half of it, and more. There’s always as much belowground as above.
    That’s the trouble with people, their root problem. Life runs alongside them, unseen. Right here, right next. Creating the soil. Cycling water. Trading in nutrients. Making weather. Building atmosphere. Feeding and curing and sheltering more kinds of creatures than people know how to count.
    A chorus of living wood sings to the woman: If your mind were only a slightly greener thing, we’d drown you in meaning.”
  • “Old trees are our parents, and our parents’ parents, perchance. If you would learn the secrets of Nature, you must practice more humanity…”
  • “He wonders: What makes the bark twist and swirl so, in a tree so straight and wide? Could it be the spinning of the Earth? Is it trying to get the attention of men?”
Richard Powers on The Overstory
  • “The reading public needs such a phrase to make the miracle a little more vivid, visible. It’s something she learned long ago, from her father: people see better what looks like them. Giving trees is something any generous person can understand and love. And with those two words, Patricia Westerford seals her own fate and changes the future. Even the future of trees.”
  • “The coders tell the listeners nothing except how to look. Then the new creations head off to scout the globe, and the code spreads outward. New theories, new offspring, and more evolving species, all of them sharing a single goal: to find out how big life is, how connected, and what it would take for people to unsuicide. The Earth has become again the deepest, finest game, and the learners just its latest players. Wild in their diversity, they fly up, flock into the datasphere like origami birds. Some will thrive for a while, then fall away. The ones that hit on something right will increase and multiply. As Neelay has learned with the greatest pain: Life has a way of talking to the future. It’s called memory.
  • “NEELAY THINKS: This is how it must go. There will be catastrophes. Disastrous setbacks and slaughters. But life is going someplace. It wants to know itself; it wants the power of choice. It wants solutions to problems that nothing alive yet knows how to solve, and it’s willing to use even death to find them. He will not live to see it completed, this game played by countless people worldwide, a game that puts the players smack in the middle of a living, breathing planet filled with potential they can only dimly begin to imagine. But he has nudged it along.”

Header photo by Rose @Daban Ancient Town
Ürümqi, XUAR, CN
July 2, 2021

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