Time spent at the site oscillates between contemplative, observational, and social modes. I make every effort to visit the site at least once per week, and frequently spend time shooting video, writing, observing, doing contemplative/meditation exercises, and documenting observations, often combining site visits with extended walks around the field station. Sometimes I do nothing at all for significant stretches of time, and just try to simply be in the forest and with the tree. My collaborator, naturalist Kate Wellspring visits the site regularly too, and has created a thorough botanical survey of the area. We have tracked bird, animal, fungi, and some invertebrate species, and installed a wildlife camera at various locations around our site. We've tracked the progress of the many red oak seedlings sprouting around the base of the tree, and Kate propagated some acorns from the tree, raising them in pots for a couple of seasons, and then planting them in six locations around the field station. The pictures below give a sense for some of our activities and observations. It is hard to capture the meaning and richness that the site has taken on for us over these last three years. The tree and the forest have been great teachers and provided occasion for rich conversation, learning, and reflection. This work has been supported and enhanced by a sustained project of self-education in the areas of natural history, forest ecology, climate crisis, and environmental philosophy.
PERFORMANCE SCORE: TREE BREATHING
Part 1: at the tree
set a timer for five minutes
stand in front of the tree with both hands on it
breathe deeply and slowly, feeling your breath fill your whole body as you inhale (draw air in through the tree)
then feel your breath filling the volume of the tree as you exhale
inhale (receive) and exhale (give)
stop when timer ends
Part 2: at home
read about photosynthesis, respiration, and carbon sequestration
Increase your understanding of these processes
consider the carbon cycle and its role in climate crisis
Part 3: back at the tree
repeat part 1 with increased knowledge and consideration of material reciprocity
Our subject, the Red oak, estimated to be 75-100 years old, measured at 85 feet tall and 24" diameter at 4. Pictured here in summer 2019.
The site itself is a typical patch of second-growth New England forest, and includes red oak, white pine, hemlock, black cherry, american beech, red maple, yellow, grey, black and white birches, white ash, striped maple, and a number of other trees, in addition to a rich diversity of understory plants and shrubs. Naturalist Kate Wellspring has been creating a botanical survey of the site starting in Summer 2019.
nicknamed the "hotel tree" (aka "air-b-n-tree"), this diseased and dying white pine on the site has been extensively mined by pileated woodpeckers, and frequently each cavity hosts a different invertebrate "guest." occasionally mice also use the cavities, and these provide an attraction for owls. no trip to the site is complete without a visit to the hotel tree.