Last June I wrote about Trees and the need to get to know them better, and since then have kept finding allies who shared my enthusiasm from among the new breed of poetically inclined scientists writing inspiring books.
One I mentioned was Professor David George Haskell from New York who has written two fine books, and I subsequently had the joy of listening to him at the Byron Bay Writers Festival in August 2017 – he spoke just as eloquently and enthusiastically as he writes, especially about his most recent book “The Song of the Trees – Stories of Nature’s great Connectors”.
In the conclusion of the book’s forward he explains that “Each chapter tells the song of a particular tree, the physicality, the sounds, the stories that brought sound into being……… Much of this song dwells under the acoustic surface. To listen is to touch a stethoscope to the skin of the landscape to hear what stirs below.
There is poetry in his description of the variety of language of rain drops falling in the Amazon forest – Here the rain falls in big Syllables, phonemes unlike the clipped rain of most other landmasses. He says that here ” the leaves speak the rain’s language with the most eloquence”
He sees life as a network – “there is no “nature’ or “environment”, separate and apart from humans. We are part of the community of life, composed of relationships with “others” – we cannot step outside life’s songs. This music made us; it is our nature….To listen to trees, nature’s great connectors, is therefore to learn how to inhabit the relationships that give life its source, substance and beauty.”
I discovered another fine book at our local library – “The Lost Language of Plants – the Ecological importance of Plant Medicines to Life on Earth” by Steven Harrod Buchner, a prolific author from Idaho. U.S.A in which he reminds us that the plant kingdom constitutes 90 % of all life on earth. and it provides us with a ‘ Green print for living’ – a green model for communal living through communication and cooperation and without relying on any form of hierarchy,
He tells us that plants have been talking to us for a long time -‘they are much more than the sum of their parts – they have purpose, intelligence and soul…. They look out for one another and they need each other for their health, citing the trees – the lungs of the planet – often relying on the presence of a particular lichen for healing.
It is a very comprehensive book covering a wide range of issues including a brief history of how one hundred years ago we abandoned living medicine in favour of pharmaceutical medicine. Up till that time plants wherever they grow on the planet were able to communicate their specific healing properties to us intuitively, providing us with the natural medicine needed.to maintain health and minimize disease.
Stephen Buhner also details the serious environmental impacts .of technological medicine including uses of radioactivity and cautions that “to leave a legacy that does not merely impoverish future life, but may endanger it for millennia to come” charging that to do so would constitute an act of unprecedented irresponsibility!
( I took a pause here – it was time for a quick swim – its a hot day and it is high tide right now. I drove down to the estuary only to see a storm cloud moving in from the ocean. Just as I sank into the water the sky burst open and I was surrounded by an avalanche of super-sized rain drops making staccato music – loud plopplopityplop beats splattering and spitting as they hit the water surface around my head, turning into a deluge. As quickly as it came, the black cloud-mass passed on, heading inland and leaving a splendid double rainbow in its wake.
Now thoroughly drenched and exhilarated – it’s time to return home, dry off, return to the keyboard and share the story of MY rain song experience . I’m sure the sea-plants below the water’s surface swayed and sang along with it too!! )
Another highlight for me at the writers’ festival was the launch of a splendid book “The Big Scrub Rainforest – a journey through time” – an initiative of the Big Scrub Landcare group, containing a wealth of diverse locally researched topics and illustrations. – A rewarding read for anyone interested in the Northern Rivers region of N.S.W. – its history and environment, readily available in all the regional libraries and bookstores.
It is a lovingly created account of the ‘rainbow region’, reaching far back to when it was still part of the great Gondwana rainforest, tracing the time from when the continent travelled north from the Antarctic over 40 million years ago, crossing volcanic hotspots and creating volcanic peaks and plateaus – what we know now as our splendid Wollumbin/ Mt.Warning volcano – and the rivers of basalt lava flowing from it forming the surrounding caldera and the sub-tropical rain forests.
Today, at the old quarry at Bexhill just east of Lismore, evidence can be read down through the sedimentary layers of its volcanic past and calculate when Gondwana, of which Australia and Antarctica were a part, became a separate continent, and on through to the present day.
You can read how some of the greatest sub-tropical plant diversity on the planet is still to be found in what remains of the original forest, even after much of it was logged .
The Big Scrub was known to the aboriginal people as GABUL, and the Widjabul people who are a part of the Bunjalung Nation, are its custodians. ( the land of the Bunjalung extends from Logan to the north down to the Clarence river, and inland to Stanthorpe.) They still tell the creation stories relating to the abundant springs in the area, recognizing them as the life blood of the land by honouring the Spirit of the Water-hole.
The book tells what little remains of the Big Scrub today. I first became very aware of its story when I lived in Clunes, a village in the heart of the area and close by to one of its best-known remnants – the Booyong Nature reserve, and you will find more detail there.
These days many local people are involved in the care and restoration of the forest, and annually organize a great land-care community event – the Big Scrub Rainforest Day, one of the largest of its kind in Australia. Look out for it during Spring time.
Yet another book on the topic of “The Language of Plants – science, philosophy and literature” is a combined series of essays by Monica Gagliano, an environmental scientist from Perth, Dr. John C. Ryan, Dr.Patricia Viera and others, with the aim of creating a fresh language for communicating the evolving understanding of our connection to Earth Mother and all living beings that we share her with.
These days it is often the children who are showing the way!