What are we doing?
This old photo from the Humboldt State University Library Special Collections 1915 era captures lumberjacks working among the redwoods in California. Photographed by Swedish photographer A.W. Ericson at the time when tree logging was at its peak – to exploit the natural resources for a rapidly developing nation. The image calls to mind not only the monumental presence of these magnificent trees but also the sheer determination and hard manual labour required to extract them. In contrast to today with machinery not only enabling felling to be significantly more productive, it also distances us from the act and does that matter. Presuming that the machines have also engendered higher safety measures and therefore fewer accidents, have they also brought avarice and plunder of our forests?
“For me, trees have always been the most penetrating preachers. I revere them when they live in tribes and families, in forests and groves. And even more I revere them when they stand alone. They are like lonely persons. Not like hermits who have stolen away out of some weakness, but like great, solitary men, like Beethoven and Nietzsche. In their highest boughs the world rustles, their roots rest in infinity; but they do not lose themselves there, they struggle with all the force of their lives for one thing only: to fulfil themselves according to their own laws, to build up their own form, to represent themselves. Nothing is holier, nothing is more exemplary than a beautiful, strong tree. When a tree is cut down and reveals its naked death-wound to the sun, one can read its whole history in the luminous, inscribed disk of its trunk: in the rings of its years, its scars, all the struggle, all the suffering, all the sickness, all the happiness and prosperity stand truly written, the narrow years and the luxurious years, the attacks withstood, the storms endured. And every young farmboy knows that the hardest and noblest wood has the narrowest rings, that high on the mountains and in continuing danger the most indestructible, the strongest, the ideal trees grow.”
Drawing: montage using foundation photograph 800x magnification of granite core brought back from China, digital handwritten text, photograph inverted of found dead tree, raven drawing.