My dad leaned over me, his hands on my wrist, helping me guide a piece of wood through the router. The final piece of our new coffee table was done. A gentle breeze forced the canopy of Lodgepole Pine to dance. The sun glistened on the windows of my grandparents cabin, a cabin built from Lodgepole Pine trunks. My attention drifts towards tree near the front door of the cabin. I knew this tree well, this particular tree and I had shared many stories. Suddenly, I find my self gazing back to the windows on the cabin, I abruptly noticed that I did not know the windows well, where had they come from?
My grandpa had built his cabin well before I can remember. Perhaps I was not even born yet. He knew the timber he cut for the structure well, and with me, he shared his storied with these trees. I slowly welcomed these relationships as close friends, or even family. Even the furniture, was shaped and assembled by my grandpa, from timber he knew.
Most of us own “things” that we know nothing about. Some sort of silicon product with a sticker “Made In Japan” rests on a wooden desk that reads “Made in Indonesia”. We have no relationship with these items, and to learn more about them would be an inconvenience unimaginable, and so we use them to our convenience, so they serve their function and live up to their economic worth.
Take the desk for example. We know it is made of wood, and we know “Made in Indonesia”. After a few moments of thought, we can assimilate the idea that if it is made of wood, then surly it came from a tree. We can make another assumption, that “Made in Indonesia” might also imply the timber came from Indonesia. On this assumption, we now know that we are in the company of a tree, from Indonesia. This is going well, the awkward first questions of any new relationship are out of the way (where are you from?).
As if on a first date, I wish to continue to learn more about my desk. What were some of this tree’s most valuable experiences? What sorts of things did this tree get excited about, what wisdom does it have to share?
I am simply diverging from the idea that living beings, ecosystems, and landscapes are the products of machinery and routine, escaping the thought that systems of land, river, and plants are inert chunks of mud. By accepting that these divine settings are living, breathing bodies upon which I depend, by realizing the anima, the life within a living world, all things become personalized. I desire to develop relationships with the things that make my life possible.
In doing so, my workspace becomes a pulse of beauty in the chaos of modern life. My desk shares a story, open to friendship. I learn of life in Indonesia, the riveting story of ravish, genocide and oppression that occurs in the forests. I learn about the tyranny indigenous people who speak for the trees face. The poetic nature of the tales makes our relationship seem romantic, the product of love.
If any of my readers saw a list of current romantic relationships in my life, their jaw would hit the floor. I include the entire human micro-biome. Without them I would not write to you. I also include my dog, Piedra. I have added dozens, if not hundreds of trees, flowers, mosses, lichens and rocks. Some that were just really personable, some that are critical to my existence. I feel I have spent the time to get to know each of these, well enough that we share an intimate, romantic relationship.
Through these relationships, I learn how to live in close association, in true harmony with these individuals. Many Humans make the claim that “they cannot live without” their loved ones. I agree, fully. The only difference is, I accept that I cannot live without my loved ones, human and non-human.
To ignore these relationships one walks a tight rope between spoil, abuse and use. In any Human setting we recognize such actions as crime and unjust, why then do we disregard such disrespect amongst non-human relationships? I suppose to fail to acknowledge the relationship, is to fail to acknowledge the pain caused by the abuse. I realize, now, I need to learn my windows better and must retire from this entry.