|"Park Ridge," acrylic on Yupo paper, 9" x 12"|
I'm reading a book called the Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben, a German forester supported by the David Suzuki Foundation. He argues that trees have a sense of time and ability to remember, though no one knows where this information is kept or processed. He says they have a sense of family, parents and children, elders and youth, and provide an according mutual support. He even claims that trees have the ability to communicate with one another, a sort of built-in internet that functions on certain noise frequencies and signalling underground through fungi, when they are under threat by insects or drought.
If they are left alone, trees create for themselves the right kinds of conditions and balances needed to live for centuries and sometimes millennia.
In one chapter called the "Forest as Water Pump," Wohlleben discusses how if it weren't for coastal forests, which through transpiration create clouds the land or wind do not, the planet would not contain a single tree 400 miles inland, just desert.
I did not know any of this when we visited recently Kings Canyon National Park, in the Sierra Nevada, eastern California. It was striking to see all those trees and to experience this vital ecosystem for the first time. But it was equally a shock to see evidence of how much of it had been logged in the past (surrounding trees often continue to pour sugar and keep stumps, their family elders, alive at great expense to their own survival) and how much had been hit by fires.
Of course, some of the fires were controlled and necessary, apparently, to the well-being of the forest. Sequoias, for instance, only sprout in spots cleared by fire. But still... in parts, the land was eerie and moonish, devoid of bird calls, creaking trunks, the usual forest music.
The painting depicts a sight on a hiking trail at roughly 7,000 feet in elevation. It was a great place to take in almost all of Kings Canyon, some 2,000 feet below, and the surrounding mountains dozens of miles away. We walked it for 5-6 miles early in the morning, along a ridge to a fire lookout station surrounded by charred trunks.