WHO WILL SPEAK FOR THE TREES

 

If we destroy nature, we destroy ourselves. ~ Edward Burtynsky

My fascination with trees has followed me from childhood. Surrounded by woods, my daily life centered on exploring every nook and cranny of the forest, observing, attentive to its vicissitudes, its breath. I inhaled its stories and silence, order and great energy, flexibility and persistence. The power of these life-giving experiences instilled a deep reverence for the natural world and a profound love of trees.

In my early photographs, trees claimed their rightful place in my work. Their beauty and mystery, form and spirit were, and still are, visually irresistible.

But themes of degradation of our planet have seized my consciousness. And trees are canaries in the coal mine. The alarmingly rapid escalation of tree deaths—26 million trees in the Sierra Nevada alone over the last eight months—as huge numbers of trees succumb to drought, disease, insects, wildfires, and sea-level rise, much of it driven by climate change, has brought an urgency to this ongoing project.

“Who Will Speak for the Trees” is the first line of a poem I wrote in collaboration with Ann Chadwick Reid’s exquisite cut paper triptych, “Cedar, Sage and Pine,” about our vanishing forests. Her artwork and my poetic response were exhibited together in 2011 at Graves Gallery in Wenatchee, Washington.