I will never forget the first day of 8th grade science class. The teacher Jim Berry moved frantically around the room looking through his thick glasses and pointing at each of us as he exclaimed, “you are a miracle of nature!”
As teenagers going through puberty we thought he was crazy. Students pulled pranks on him mercilessly that entire year. They exploited his almost innocent nature by placing condoms on door knobs and posting nude magazine photos around the room. Other times they would put grease on the drawer handles of his desk.
I don’t know how he managed to keep his enthusiasm for teaching after the year we gave him. I always felt a little bad about that. I didn’t do any of the pranks but I participated with nervous laughter that comes from knowing what was happening was wrong. I think that makes me an accomplice. I think we were just confused gen x teenagers in a world that was shifting under our feet. The John Wayne movies and sexist voyeuristic imagery of the era was confusing because it didn’t show equality and kindness.
Perhaps Mr. Berry is getting the last laugh from beyond the grave as he knows that he is remembered with respect and gratitude for his attempt to share his wonder and delight at biological processes.
I often walk into woods and think of those words as I look at each tree, bush, or rock. I mentally say the words, YOU ARE A MIRACLE OF NATURE.
When I photograph trees I try to space them out like I was making a family portrait. It turns out this instinct is appropriate because research shows that trees are very familial and form their connection through a system of roots where they share nutrients, water, and carbon with one another and try to care for the sick and dying. Perhaps the instinct to hug a tree isn’t so crazy after all.
I am worried for the trees in my yard. I have watched them for 16 years now. I haven’t named or counted them but I visually go to each of them periodically to take account of their well being. We have had to take out 2-3 trees each year for the last several years. Bark beetle is the main culprit as winters haven’t been cold enough to slow them down. Now a new agent of infection is attacking. A white fungus has shown up on one of my very favorite trees. We will have to treat the tree to protect the rest of the young trees growing near by.
I think we are all children of the forest. The gift of the primordial landscape has been to provide us with fuel for fire, timber for homes, and infinite variety and beauty to feed the spirit.
Living on this parcel of land for 16 years has allowed me to notice subtle changes. The land has shifted and sunk in areas. The migration of moose, deer, and coyotes along with owls and mourning doves have altered slightly, becoming less frequent, and the number of woodpeckers coming to check on the trees with me has risen.
As housing and industrial development continues to expand to either side of us, Sarah and I have planted our flag in this earth and we will do our best to be good stewards. The last of the winter storms has come and gone and now we will begin the busy season of spring gardening and landscaping. I am happy about that.
Have a wonderful day!