If a Tree Falls in the Forest



sound



If a tree falls in the forest with a sudden thud
heard or not, make no mistake, the forest is the less.

Roots standing upright in the surprised air
a great hole with broken tendrils grasping still
the chocolate brown earth, the damp smell
of old rot down below from ancient aged trees
long gone into the files of storybook tales
of giant columns that lived a thousand years.
No one walked then in those dark shadowed woods,
their gallery of damp leaves now the pages of a book
glued into a scroll of long gone forest history.

I was not there, I came walking late one afternoon,
after a long week of rain, the earth was mellow soft
with a tart perfume of something the lightening had
been doing in the blackness of the night, the wind forgot
to take the odor down to the river bed to wash away
downstream. The earth had been so long rained and wet
and soaked that it was clear the morning wind
coming in gusts was shaking the rootworks of the tree
back and forth so angrily it could not hold its grasp
and when I came there in late afternoon
it was a tree fallen in the forest, the crack and roar
racing to the edge of the woods where the mountain
returned the sound echoing on the valley floor.
It was all over and when I went home, I wondered
what was the sound gone without a trace of memory.

A fortnight later I came walking there again
early one morning, just as the sunlight wafted dew away
from the leaves of the crushed brush that that was now
clambering around the trunk of the flat laid
defunct trunk. There was new hope there now.
Others that had been languishing in the shade,
could start again with chance seeds and side roots
creeping and waiting for sunlight in the air.
In these few days it had all begun again,
the string of life resuming, and I asked if I too
would fall in the forest of my works and days,
roots upturned so others languishing in the shade
could breathe again and slowly take my space.


A micro-thinking physics professor who had published a highschool manual of his field in l910, was the first to state on paqge 126 in exact words, that "If a trees falls in the forest and no one is there to hear it, there is no sound".      He smiled complimenting himself on his cleverness, unaware that sound is a disturbance of mechanical energy that propagates through matter as a longitudinal wave, and therefore is a mechanical wave, characterized by the properties of sound waves, which are frequency, wavelength, period, amplitude, and speed.      He was aware furthermore that sound is a vibrational energy, a pressure disturbance propagated through a medium and displacing molecules from a state of equilibrium.      But he knew better, this scientist who fancied himself a biologist-of-sorts and he went out on a limb to enter the world of living bodies, and assume that sound is the auditory perception of this disturbance.      Something heard by the ears.

. ERGO: If there are no ears, there is no sound!      And it turns out that the ears of the world seem to have been pleased by his proclamation which has borne seed, because a hundred years later there are counted on the WWW some 100,600 hits on the phrase "If a tree falls. . .etc."      There are separate counts for the phrase if including "a forest" as 31,200 or "the forest" with 69400, with only 3 for " If a tree fall. . ." as a correct if antique subjunctive of the verb in a conditional phrase.

Of course Locke in the 17th c and Bishop Berkeley in the 18th c. , had maintained that Reality is only determined by Perception, so if our professor were on the stand under oaths, he might call up these venerable gentleman as authorities in his favour and hope to confuse the court by the weight of his historical predecessors.      Or if he were able to project himself a hundred years ahead in time, he might ask his lawyer for the defense to bring forth some information about Schroedinger's "Cat In the Box" hypothetical "experiment" in which the cat in the box which could be either alive or dead and the radioisotope and the poison can be described by a wave-function (in which the dead/alive states of the cat are mathematically superposed).      According to Bohr, the cat is neither dead nor alive, but in an indeterminate state which is neither.      But it is the act of opening the box and looking in that actually causes the wave-function to collapse into one determinate state - - dead cat or live cat, so it is actually the act of observation which determines the poor cat's fate.      ERGO: This is an even more curious situation, since if there is no one there to observe, nothing actually can happen; so it is different from the Tree in the Forest, where if no observer were there to hear, the tree is still somehow able to fall.

Teetering on the edge of a perfect balance, the wind
edging it southward with an insistent gust, then the tree
began to move. A first gentle shift from the vertical.
No tenant moved yet from the comfort of a high nest.
Squirrel first felt it coming and in the next second
leaped to a branch to wait and survey the scene.
Robin chirping thought first to leave the nest
clung to a hope of eggs then flew out into the night.
Woodchuck from his cavern in the armpit of a branch
scampered onto a twig with spread arms glided off.
Then the wind pushed one last time and it was all
over, as the giant trunk began to move,
a splintering in its heartwood as in hesitation
whether to go or stay, but it was fast moving now
and in a few seconds it was all flying through the air,
arms of greenery waving in a desperate plea,
as everything thudcrashed in a split second pause
with a massive bounce onto the forest floor.

In those scant seconds in which the tree went down,
branches broken and torn leaves flying everywhere,
earth flying upwards scattered by skyward faced roots,
there was a wind of sounds around the dying tree
as a funeral dirge for a hero now at last laid to rest.
Had I been there I might have thought the service done.
But all that forest knew the ancient ritual and it was not
over. Racing through the trees a gush of energy
spread into space before fading into nothingness.
It reached the mountain ridge crashing its disaster
signals into the hard face of glinting quartzite rock
which could not hold it. Refused it turned and flew
weaker now but with same speed back to the scene
where the giant lay dead in his final exsequy.
And then the astonished forest dwellers knew
the rite had been completed as they heard
last echoes from a service now properly done.

Meanwnile God's eye enthroned in an Olympian mist
sees what happened and in peace he nods assent.
In his great wisdom surveying the firmament
he daily notes the changing face of all things great
or inconsequential. Nothing from nothingness comes,
and from things destroyed no part is taken away.
But the springtime return of life with thrusting force
leaping into birth, this is all his plan and he knows
how it is beautiful. He smiles as he turns his eye away.

You might wonder why the poet has included a scientific statement about the speed of sound, below, in what is supposed to be a Poem? Is it so you can insert a few second intervals in the above verse, and then calculate the length of time it will take for the sound of the falling tree to reach the face of the ridge, and then return to the ear of an animal at the site of the disaster? Inverted this can give the distance too, but this is not the reason for a digression. It is because what we wrongly separate as Nature and Science are one and the same thing. Read the following paragraph thoughtfully, and you will see it is a beautifully clear statement of a truth which surrounds us, just as the forest of living trees is another encompassing truth within which we live.

"Sound is a vibration that travels through an elastic medium as a wave. The speed of sound describes how much distance such a wave travels in a certain amount of time. In dry air with a temperature of 21C (70F) the speed of sound is 344 m/s (1230 km/h, or 770 mph, or 1130 ft/s). Although it is commonly used to refer specifically to air, the speed of sound can be measured in virtually any substance. Incidentally the speed of sound in liquids and non-porous solids is much higher than that in air, a factor which opens other doors."

____________

She said don't go down there again Harold,
that place is bothering you. I knew she was right
but I went down later anyway with the dog
who knew right away that something was off
sniffing around the trunk of the fallen tree.
Something was under there, maybe crushed
when it fell, there was a bad smell in the air
which he understood while I could just guess.
So it took something down with it I was figuring,
poetic justice when a great man falls, but trees
they do that too? There was some fur on a leg
stuck out half eaten. I wondered who it was
dining that scavenging way but a hungry bear?
Well none of my business but the dog was gone
and didn't come back until the next day.
I didn't tell her what was there, that bloody leg
with the bone showing, but the dog smelled bear
was queasy and next time I had to walk alone.

Leaving the green grassy slopes where the sun
smiles down on bush branch and flower easily
you sense a change leaving ash and alder grove.
Look now down the hill to where bright birches grow
before setting foot into the dark and heavy world
of oak and maple towering in complacent majesty
over a silent land where no rabbit goes,
no mouse runs quick ahead of wild cat's claw,
no woodchuck burrows in the damp earth there.
Here all is silent but the wind that whips leaves
into a mat of blanketing on the forest floor.
But you can walk easily as in a well kept park,
wondering what broom men with their carts and pails
have been at work here. Is there is some secret force
cutting and trimming to keep the floor so orderly?

Night and day they are working incessantly,
toiling in tunnels and when the night is cool
they rise under cover of darkness to get a breath
of clear fresh air, and rest a while before the work
of the night shift, eating up the detritus of the trees
that lovely mulch, the salad of an evening meal.
The blood is flowing now again, refreshed they know
nighttime ends soon and lightening their dinner load
they go down again to work the tunnels and the caves.
This army of the street sweepers of the silvan floors,
they rise in army of thousands, a military brigade
plowing the earth on orders from somewhere
distant in the history of what we call biology.
These are the ranks of worms, the annelid army
the secret of deep earth, known to few but birds
and frogs and reptiles and to the fishermen.

ODE:
When we behold a wide, turf-covered expanse,
we should remember that its smoothness,
on which so much of its beauty depends,
is mainly due to all the inequalities
having been slowly leveled by
the ceaseless activity of
. . . .worms.

ANTISTROPHE:
It is a marvelous reflection
that the whole of the superficial mould
over any such expanse has passed, will again
pass, every few years through
the bodies of
. . . worms.

"When we behold a wide, turf-covered expanse, we should remember that its smoothness, on which so much of its beauty depends, is mainly due to all the inequalities having been slowly leveled by worms.    It is a marvelous reflection that the whole of the superficial mould over any such expanse has passed, and will again pass, every few years through the bodies of worms.

"The plough is one of the most ancient and most valuable of man's inventions; but long before he existed the land was in fact regularly ploughed, and still continues to be thus ploughed by earth-worms.      It may be doubted whether there are many other animals which have played so important a part in the history of the world, as have these lowly organized creatures.

"Worms are poorly provided with sense-organs, for they cannot be said to see, although they can just distinguish between light and darkness;    they are completely deaf,     and have only a feeble power of smell;     the sense of touch alone is well developed.     They can therefore learn but little about the outside world, and it is surprising that they should exhibit some skill in lining their burrows with their castings and with leaves, and in the case of some species in piling up their castings into tower-like constructions.     But it is far more surprising that they should apparently exhibit some degrees of intelligence instead of a mere blind instinctive impulse, in their manner of plugging up the mouths of their burrows.      They act in nearly the same manner as would a man, who had to close a cylindrical tube with different kinds of leaves, petioles, triangles of paper, &c., for they commonly seize such objects by their pointed ends. "

[THE FORMATION OF VEGETABLE MOULD THROUGH THE ACTION OF WORMS WITH OBSERVATIONS ON THEIR HABITS......by Charles Darwin, London l881]

____________

On the soft carpet of the worm cast sod
the lordly master tree in season will waft down
wind borne floating gliders of its seed.
Some will go idly spinning to the damp ground,
others wing far away to another field another land.
We find here social forests of companion trees,
some come from shy maples rooting well in the shade
others with rock hard nuts of that butter taste known
only to a squirrel's tooth, these are the kind that cling
together in social stands. You never see them far apart.
But others have a certain love of solitude, they fly
far on the merest breeze with two wings spread
hopelessly descending with a farewell whirl to the sky.
These can fall on the scrap from a woodchuck's hole,
or near a dropping from a wandering grazing cow,
or on a rock ledge in the middle of a plowed field
untouched as the farmer's tractor veers away.
Here will it stand years later as a solitary giant tree
as wide as tall, beneath which in the summer shade
cows can gather in the heat struck afternoon.
No birds will be nesting here under the watchful eye
of the eternally circling hawk, provider of meat
to a ring of screaming younglings in the nest.
And no sharp-eyed woodsman with chainsaw in hand
will ever give more than a passing glance to this tree,
a wolf tree he calls it, with its trunk of twisted knots
useless for boards and too hard to split for firewood.
This is a loner who loves the spaciousness of the field.

____________

Henery, you got a visitor.
He was over by the tractor,
wiping hands on his overalls.
Now you both sit on the porch a while
have some limonade,. it's been a real hot day
I told him about the tree going over. I knew he would think I what a city man talking so much about nature things, but he listened politely. After a while it seemed he had a story to tell, it was about a man who had bought a farm nearby some years ago. He was a real city feller always walked around his land in street clothes with a hat on, seems he had bought a hundred acres with nothing in his mind because it was cheap but then he found the government had put up something in the post office about how to clear land for planting crops and they would pay to clear cut trees and pull the roots up and all this came to a lot of money and this is what interested him. So each year he would take one of the fields where there were natural windbreaks and have some men come with chainsaws and clear it all away. They could have the firewood instead of the pay he marked for the work done on the triplicate state forms. And next year it was dozers getting stumps pulled out and more forms with his signature and this went on for a dozen years before the state auditors began to suspect he was not going to plant anything but just milk the state funding. Just about that time he sold the place, a hundred acres without a tree in sight, and piles of roots and dirt and branches in ugly windrows where there had been strips of forest with all sorts of birds singing. Nobody wanted that land, still unsold, but he went over a few counties bought an old rig and started to drill for oil. They told him there had never been oil over there. He grinned and said that was OK, he didn't need oil because what he had was much better. He had investors.



Didn't know why he stretched this long tale out
at the time, but later when I had thought it over
I guessed it was because he knew how I felt
about my big maple that went over in the wind.
I thought he might think it foolish of me fretting
just one big old tree, but now that I recall what he said
that hot summer afternoon I can see he understood

____________

It was a hot summer day when I came back again,
she said Henry was in the old barn, it's going to rain
so go over there quickly. He was searching around
for something or other, I had better find it now
before it rains and gets dark. I didn't understand.
He pointed to the roof said the shingles were dry.
The rain came and the barn was suddenly dark.

My Dad put up those shingles years after the war
they were all butternut laid down the right way
so they would curl up when dry. They let the light in
and the heat goes up and out. But when they're wet
they curl right down tight. That Butternut, well
nobody knows about that stuff now and the worst
thing is there are no trees around here any more.
Nice soft wood and the amateur woodworkers
got the hang of using it. He was rambling on. . . .

When he was a boy one afternoon he gathered up
a pile of those rock hard nuts, set them on a rock,
left them there and he was going to get a sack
and tote them home. Next morning it was all gone.
Dad, where do you think they went? Well I guess
a squirrel was busy carting them all away,
that's their winter larder. Why didn't you
bring them right in? Well, Dad, I sort of forgot.

It was getting night when the squirrel with a full cheek
of nuts had finished storing them all away.
Got every last one and when the winter comes
we'll have something to gnaw and nibble, 'cause
there's nothing sweet as that buttery nut flavor,
he was thinking to himself. Later it would be
acorns and walnuts all in their secret caches,
so he would go back and find them on his map
of winter dining, but there were so many out there
he didn't remember where each one was stored.
He had sort of forgot.

Henry was still lecturing on the virtue of the tree.
The squirrel forgets where he stashed nuts away
that's why you see them growing in close stands
sort of clinging together. They are a tree that likes
its own company. You don't find them here and
there in the woods, they are what I would call
a very friendly and a most social tree.

a)        Butternut (Juglans cinerea), also called white walnut or oilnut, grows rapidly on well-drained soils of hillsides and streambanks in mixed hardwood forests. This small to medium-sized tree is short lived, seldom reaching the age of 75. Butternut is more valued for its nuts than for lumber, but he soft coarse-grained wood works, stains, and finishes well. The sweet nuts are prized as a food by man and animals. Nuts are especially popular in New England for making maple-butternut candy. Dye from the nut was used for the cloth of Civil War Confederate soldiers, called 'butternuts'.

b)         Butternut flowers from April to June, the species is monoecious; male flowers are slender catkins that develop from axillary buds and female flowers are short terminal spikes home on current year's shoots. Flowers of both sexes do not usually mature simultaneously on any individual tree .The fruit is an oblong-ovoid pointed nut, 3.8 to 5.5 cm (1.5 to 2.2 in) long, that matures in September and October of the year of pollination. Butternut hybridizes with English walnut (Juglans regia L.) to produce J. x quadrangulata (Carr.) Rehd. It also crosses with Japanese walnut J. ailantifolia Carr. to produce J. x bixbyi Rehd. Butternut is thought to have a haploid chromosome number of 16.

____________

It was a tall gaunt shadow against the evening sky,
what had once been a tree but for long time now
there was no burst of buds in spring or foliage in fall
turning red before shedding what was unneeded
in preparation for the long sleep of winterchill.
But now in summer mornings it was still a monument
with some grand dignity, while under the shedding bark
colonies of hidden grubs were moving , while outside
the keen eared woodpecker was poised, head up
tail against the tree and then it was click click click
sounding across the valley, a paradigm of industry.

Here was each morning conference for a noisy crowd
seven crows all perched in their familiar branch
hailing the world with their daily oratorio.
You could tell by their well counted measuring
of phrase and the rests that were scored between
that this was serious business, this early ritual
of seeing the morning in. And when the dawn
rosy fingered had lost her brilliant coloring
they knew it was time to go to work, fly off to find
a rabbit dead on the highway, a tender bit of
something warm for crowlings cawing at the nest.

This was the regular way for many years
this skyscrape skeleton for the black brethren
to sit a while and view the dew wet countryside.
But when the sun arose one morning it was all gone,
nothing left but a shamble of rotted broken branch
and split trunk lying half buried in the grass.
From that moment no crows with a morning song
were heard in the valley, and no one knew
if they had found another tree on a higher hill
better to view nature. Or had the loud collapse
happened as they came to do their morning song,
scattering them with the sound of danger in the air.
The conference had concluded sessions, no one knew
where they had gone, or why the only sound
in that end of the valley was now
the single rhyme of the pecker
in some other tree, with a
click click click.

____________

All night over field and forest the soft snow
had been gently wafting into a comforter
beneath which in a dark hole far below
a chipmunk is busy gnawing on a nut
before retiring. Deeper still in sleep,
someone is slow breathing till April come.
No mouse dares to leave his tidy house now,
it is all blanketed quiet and a waiting time.

The pickup truck with snowplow elevated
scurries here and there to clear up roads
and doorways for kids and folk who go to work.
For these the snow is a bother, an encumbrance
to be skittered off the right and left side roadways
or piled at angles where the road is turned.
These piles will be there in April, when the sun
melts the roadways days to freeze again at night,
Such hills of jammed snow freeze hard as ice
and stay through spring. Some past the garden
under the balsams by the stone wall will stay
well into spring, we watch them day by day
wondering when these little glaciers will be gone,
sucked into the bosom of the earth. Snowballs
packed up now and put in the freezer would be fun
for a snowball fight on the coming Fourth,
a great idea but nobody remembers after all.

For forest land there is a different scenario
where snow falls drifting from branch to branch
in a counterpoint of angled descent until it rests
nestling into the crannies of the forest floor.
Here it will stay untouched, except by a branch
broken in the wind or track of a wandering deer.
Later the snow is wet and will sink away
into the soaking earth until gathering in rivulets
it seeks the downward turn into riverbeds
flowing at last into the great glacier carved lake.
Here snow is needed for the annual slow repair
of last summer's drought, it is the finale
of the forest's calendar concert for the year.

_____________
It is then the wife and husband standing at the door
look out over the lawn and garden in disrepair.
The delicate edgings of the flowerbeds are gone,
the forsythia planted too near the house
crushed by falling block of snow, the garden
a tangle of last year's squash and tomato vines
where a part of the tree which offered shade
now lies split. A feeling of abject dismay
at all the last year's work lost and now again
start over. Well, that is the cost of order
everywhere in the world, might as well
get the rakes and shovels and see if the tiller
runs on last year's gas. Life in the country,
that's what we wanted and now we pay the bill.

Pruning lilacs, where does the pile of branches go?
Where shall I rake the giant hill of leaves, no burning
anymore, and the compost box is full. Up here
there is always the option of throwing stuff
over the ledge, get rid of it and you will never
see it there on the edge of the woods. Bagging
and taking it somewhere is what the city people do.
You know, Harry, the woods down toward the valley
never seems to change in spring, maybe a branch
broken here and there and it seems to tend itself.
If a tree falls it is embraced by the forest floor
as coming back to where if all began. Just be glad
we don't have to go out there and organize
the paths and brush that is crowding on the road.
We have enough here, let's just get to work.

Over the edge of the ledge there is a vast quietude.
Sounds are delicate, the pat of a rabbit's foot,
the whirr of a mourning dove rising to flight,
the short scream of a mouse caught in the claws
of hawk sailing off across the trees. No longer
hoots night owl on branch now gone to sleep,
squirrel leaps daringly in his antic flight
branch to branch disdaining the wet earth,
an ancient toad peeps out tentatively
from under his rock in the wall to see
if all is right in the world.
The fox lightly goes
here and there
an eye out
for what
stirs,
until he goes
down to the farm
along the highway to see
if the fence at the chicken house
broken, has been repaired this year.
All is in order as he goes back to check his den
and sniff his lady lying on her side with young,
This is a good world to wander in, if you have wit
to watch everything carefully. But go cautiously.

Shall it be corn again this year, Harry,
you remember nothing came up last year?
Maybe I planted too close, they say
weed early. And can you find
the tomato wires we got last year
at the yardsale, I can't find them anywhere.
Let's see, my list says to get at the store
four bags of lime and a couple 10-10-20,
and I really should get some new potting soil
for all the house plants to repot, maybe
do that first and get it out of the way
before your turn over the garden again.
Those little flies seem worse this year,
soon gone before the mosquitoes come,
but at least no black flies around here.

Sometimes I wonder, Harry if this isn't really
just too much work for us, we are getting on
and that fellow in the magazine who lets
everythng go natural and he says the floor
of the forest will come up and make a lawn
that no one has to fertilize or weed or mow.
Wouldn't that be great for us, we could live
naturally in nature like a partly clothed
and modest Adam and Eve. What do you think
Harry? Well you think about it a while,
I have to get some gas for the tiller first,
you come along, we'll have a nice ride
by the lake, see all the trees leafing out
on the hills across the valley. Do us good
to soak in some of the springtime air.
Let's take something and have a picnic
maybe? But human nature is very orderly
and they were back in half an hour
going at it fiercely with spade and hoe.

That place where the men had just put in
a new window, there were crumbs of insulation
falling down from above on the window sill.
Two ants were busy carrying the bits away,
going back and forth in the most orderly way.
piling them at the edge of the window sill.
They seemed to step back admiring their handiwork,
but then they were dropping it piece by piece
to somewhere far below on the carpet pile,
over the edge into the realms of the unknown,
a place where it would never be seen at all.

____________

It had been a very dry spring and brush fires
were turning up everywhere. About that time
she said why don't we go for a walk in the woods
down toward the end of our land, just to see
how it all looks before the new year's growth.
I said it was a good idea and we were walking
an old log road which soon split into two paths,
we took the one which verged off toward town,
mostly overgrown but we could still get through.
Suddenly she stopped. Look over there, do you see
that black patch, what do you think, she said.
I looked and saw some small branches burned
around a bit of brush that was charred and a few
chunks of bark turned charcoal. What do you think
she said? It was a fire no question 'bout that,
but could have brought the whole forest down
from here to the road and back to our place.
Well who in the world would have done a foolish
thing like that at this time of year, she said?

I thought back to my boyhood and I knew
it had to be a couple of Scouts who were trying out
what the scoutmaster had told them to do if caught
as night came down in the forest. He had said
rub sticks together but they had a book of matches
and went to work neatly. But he had told them
never leave a fire in the forest unattended,
it is the highest responsibly of a Scout, boys.
Put it out somehow, do you understand that?

Shocked and still thinking, that evening at the desk
we checked if our fire insurance was paid up,
but couldn't get the danger out of our mind.
So next week I went back there with the dog
to see if it had really happened just like that
and maybe they had watered the fire down.
While I was thinking the dog got interested,
sniffed around the ashes, scraped the earth a bit,
then lifted his leg and autographed the spot.
So that was it, two thirteen year old hunters
out in the forest camping, just like their dads.
But as we left Spot scratched away at something
along the path. Last chapter in the mystery,
under the leaves two empty cans of beer.

____________

These May days can just rain on and on.
The shower is over there is a mist in the air
hanging and falling droplets everywhere.
Water wants to get inside. Did I shut the windows
in the bedroom north side? Was that red drip
dried on the cast iron stove always there,
or something new? The little green touch of mold
in the bathroom is something we can paint in fall.
If it gets worse I'll call the man tomorrow about
fixing the hole in the roof where the rain gets in.
This sort of thinking can get a person down,
let's go for a walk and see how it feels
outside in the woods, maybe it's not a day
for singing in the rain, but just have a look
from the other side of the fence.
After all water is not an enemy,
just plain old rain, isn't it, dear?

Under the wide reaching arms of the maple tree
it was quite different. There was a stirring
on the hands of many thousand leaves,
a gentle applause for the end of thirsty days,
and under the sieved umbrella held aloft
over our heads by courteous branches, the rain
was now diffused into a thousand patterings
falling to rest on the bed of blanket loam.
It could have been ancient forests aeons ago
with great flat strapped leaves and giant ferns
or it could have been prairie fields of grass
on which great bison lumbered, but it was
always that dash of rain to come wash clean
the tired dustiness of the living world.

She said, it's better out here, isn't it?
Yes I said, let's stay here a while and see
if that rumbling thunder begets a bright flash
to say it's all over, maybe a rainbow? I'll start
a fire to dry the chill inside, put a few chunks
into the stove and let's think about supper.
Our den is dry enough, the chimney smoke
drifting aloft says people are living here,
glad to be snug inside but glad to have
that ancient forest wall outside.

Prolonged exposure to acid rain causes forest soils to lose valuable nutrients. It also increases the concentration of aluminum in the soil, which interferes with the uptake of nutrients by the trees. Lack of nutrients causes trees to grow more slowly or to stop growing altogether. More visible damage, such as defoliation, may show up later. Trees exposed to acid rain may also have more difficulty withstanding other stresses, such as drought, disease, insect pests and cold weather. The ability of forests to withstand acidification depends on the ability of the forest soils to neutralize the acids. This is determined by much the same geological conditions that affect the acidification of lakes. Consequently, the threat to forests is largest in those areas where lakes are also seriously threatened by acid from MidWesterns US coat fired plant. These areas receive about twice the level of acid rain that forests can tolerate without long-term damage. Forests in upland areas may also experience damage from acid fog that often forms at higher elevations. The loss of nutrients in forest soils may threaten the long-term sustainability of forests in areas with sensitive soils. If current levels of acid rain continue into the future, the growth and productivity of fifty percent of the eastern boreal forests will be negatively affected.

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. . . .continuing, work in progress . . .

William Harris
www.middlebury.edu/~harris