A Day In The Life Of A Tree

Haeckel's jellyfish, and the Daily Mail's jellyfish.

A tree requires such work to extract what we want from it as people – look how we endeavor to pull a perfect and geometrical flower out of it, which will soon enough be bent and withered. Look at how its flowers aggregate in ungainly clouds, only the enchantment of their color remaining. A Haeckel stretches a biological form into its inherent symmetry, but in life these symmetries stay submerged, as life twists and bends, as accidents and damage accrue in the form, through wear and mutation. In the tree, the mathematical harmony and the heap of accidents haunt each other simultaneously, and can only with great pains be pulled apart into a sort of mental espalier.

We cannot get our heads around trees. We simplify them into clouds stuck on thin pillars, into a chain of arcs. We know that an acorn grows into an oak, and that this is marvelous; and that the oak in turn makes acorns. But we can hardly walk ourselves through, step by step, how this acorn awaits the coincidence of energy and materials to begin its replication; how it funnels everything that touches it into making this striving mountain of cellulose. If we call it a program, we get closer to its actual nature, I think – but we also relate it to what is nearest at hand, and rhetorically pivot it to what has become at once honorable and familiar.

flatbed tree
Flatbed tree in Cambridge, MA.
gingko street trees
The gingkos of Swann Street, Washington, DC.
pollarded tree
Pollarded street trees in San Francisco.

(September 2016)