Sunday, April 09, 2006

Strangely Shaped Trees

we thought of pablo over at roundrock journal when we saw these trees in fort worden state park in port townsend, wa., because he has shown us so many strangely shaped trees. this fort was a shore defense installation overlooking the strait of juan de fuca. it was built in 1890 something to guard against invasion by some foreign armada.

there are a lot of trees here with very old broken tops. this whole hilltop of maybe 40 acres was cleared in the late 1890s to build gun emplacements for large guns, 10 and 12 inch bores, placed here and all up and down the pacific coast, to ward off attackers. i have seen trees damaged when they are small by logging, and then grown up with a tilted crown, or none, or a lateral rising to be a new leader. many of the splits and damaged trunks here in fort worden seemed close to the same height, so i considered that they were damaged as very small trees when the area was cleared just over a hundred years ago.

two winters living here have taught us some about the locality. the headlands where these trees live look almost straight out west through the strait of juan de fuca. the wind comes unimpeded across thousands of miles of the pacific ocean, funneled through the difference between canada and the us, to be shoved up a hundred feet and roar through these trees. maybe the damaged trees are the record of the storms. whatever the forces which created them, i enjoy them as evidence of the persistence of vegetation, of life.

sometimes life requires an adjustment when things get out of balance. i see where a university professor in texas has caught flak for predicting that a biological reality--ebola, ecoli, avian flu, whatever--will drastically reduce the human population, and that, in terms of the planet earth's biosphere, that would be healthy. he has been accused of advocating an outbreak of ebola. i agree with his prediction. we humans may have conquered, or held at bay, disease spread by oral fecal contamination, by building sewers, but we are crowding more of us tighter and tighter together. we are ripe for an infectious pathogen. i agree also with his assessment of the effect. a major reduction in the human population would, it seems to me, rather obviously reduce our pressure on the planet's resources, giving that tough vegetation a chance to heal the scars of parking lots and clearcuts.

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