Farewell, Festival of the Trees. Hello, Treeblogging.com.

Treeblogging.com screenshotOn Thursday I had the melancholy task of compiling and posting the final edition (#66) of the Festival of the Trees, a monthly blog carnival I co-founded back in June 2006; the first edition appeared right here at Via Negativa. I hosted it four more times over the years, and each time it felt like a bit of a homecoming. So why didn’t the final edition appear here? Because it was just not an end but a beginning: the beginning of a successor effort called simply Treeblogging.com.

As I explained at the end of Festival of the Trees 66, my co-conspirator Jade Blackwell and I felt that too much energy has gone out of blogging for blog carnivals to work very well any more, at least not without a greater expenditure of energy by the organizers than we were willing to put into it. Fewer and fewer people stepped forward to volunteer, and since the idea of blog carnivals never spread very far beyond the political blogosphere, we continually had to explain it to potential participants. Gone are the days when bloggers enthusiastically left comments on each others’ posts; much of the conversation seems to have moved to Twitter and Facebook now.

So we decided to turn the FOTT coordinating blog into a community aggregator site for people who love trees. No more big link-dumps to challenge readers’ increasingly fragmented attention spans; now the links will appear continually, as soon as people submit them. The blog carnival has become a blog. We’ve launched a Facebook page in addition to the Twitter feed, have commenced auto-posting to both, and are encouraging people to subscribe by email.

As I wrote today, though, the most important thing is for everyone who blogs about trees to get in the habit of sending us links. It’s only been a couple of days, but the response has already been pretty encouraging. We’ll see what happens.


I don’t think blogging is going away — quite the opposite, really. It’s become the dominant way to share content on the open web. And to the extent that Facebook and Twitter are bringing more people online, they’re indirectly helping bloggers by growing the audience. After all, links to content outside Facebook’s walled garden makes up a sizable proportion of most people’s feeds.

But there’s no doubt that the social aspect of blogging was one of the things that made it vibrant and exciting back in 2006, when online social networks had barely begun to go mainstream, and I’m not certain blogs will ever see that level of engagement again. In a way, I think it’s good that people who only ever wanted to chat and share photos have places where they can do that now without feeling pressured to post something more substantial. But it does mean that web publishers — and even blog carnival coordinators — can’t keep doing things the same way forever.

The driveway walnut tree


As a follow-up to yesterday’s post, I decided to shoot some pictures of the black walnut tree in question. It had rained off and on, but the sun came out while I was shooting, making everything glow and glisten. In processing, I tried switching to black-and-white and found I preferred that for almost all the photos, with the possible exception of the one above. Here’s a slideshow of the set, which requires Flash, meaning that if you’re on an iPhone or iPad, you won’t be able to watch it. However, this is best viewed on a large monitor — once it starts playing, click the four-arrows icon at bottom right to expand it to full-screen. (If you’re on dial-up, it’s probably easiest to browse the set, and if you’re reading this via email or in a feed reader, you’ll probably have to click through to view the slideshow.)

The photo with my hand in it shows what I believe is the scar from our long-ago Frisbee attack. Usually black walnuts that sustain damage to a terminal bud end up forking, but this one did not. A single bud became the new main stem.

Black walnut wood is prized by furniture makers, and the supply is relatively scarce because the trees grow slowly once they start to get big. As these photos and yesterday’s post suggest, however, they grow quite rapidly in their first few decades. My feeling is once they start bearing nuts, that takes so much out of them that they don’t have much energy left to channel into wood. Consider they remain leafless for roughly seven and half months of the year at our latitude, not leafing out until early June, and the very woody nuts are always plentiful — I don’t think pollination ever fails.

The yard of my parents’ house is dominated by black walnuts, which might not seem like a good thing given their legendary inhospitabilty toward certain other plants, which can’t tolerate the chemical juglone exuded by black walnut leaves, husks and roots. However, for birdwatchers like my mom, they’re ideal because they leaf out so late and lose their leaves so early. When migrating warblers move through the yard, she has no trouble spotting them.

As for the walnuts, they are a bit of an acquired taste and a lot of work to remove from the shells, requiring a sledgehammer and extensive use of a nutpick. The hulls — source of the ink my friend Alison is so fond of — are easy enough to remove, but you have to wear gloves. If you don’t, as we didn’t when we were kids, you tend to provoke comments like, “Hey Bonta! Did you’ns run out toilet paper?” Kids can be cruel. These days, we find it much easier just to buy a jar of pre-shelled black walnuts for a couple dollars from the local Amish whenever we need some, so the squirrels up here feed very well.

Gray squirrels are scatter hoarders, and it’s their burying of the walnuts all around the yards and meadow that’s responsible for most of the new trees — those few that get past the deer (or boys with Frisbees). In the book North American Tree Squirrels, mammalogist Michael J. Steele recounts some of the strategies gray squirrels use to keep other squirrels from discovering their walnuts, including digging a couple fake burial sites in a row before finally burying the walnut for real if other squirrels are watching. I also once watched a squirrel excavate a walnut that had been buried about a foot down, clean it all off, then dig another hole a yard away and re-bury it. I suspect it thought another squirrel had watched the initial bury.

The most amazing fact about this behavior to me is that the squirrels rely on memory alone to recover hundreds of nuts, even when they’re buried under an additional foot or more of snow and ice. Steele has calculated that a squirrel digging a black walnut out of the frozen ground on a bitter cold January day, then chiseling through the rock-hard shell, expends more energy than it gets back from eating the nut. Hence, I suppose, the frequent raids on the birdfeeder to make up the deficit.

Don’t forget to submit tree-related links to the Festival of the Trees monthly blog carnival (deadline: September 30). The next edition will be at europeantrees — and we are still looking for a host of the following (Nov. 1st) edition.

Festival of the Trees 61: new discoveries

hugging an English oak, Hampstead Heath

Welcome to the fifth anniversary edition of the Festival of the Trees! Five years might seem like a long time on the internet, but for a tree, at least here in Pennsylvania, it’s barely enough time to get above deer-browse height. So we’re really still at the sapling stage. And although it’s nowhere near as hip as it was in 2006, long-form blogging is proving to be a durable medium for things like nature documentation, poetry, and photo-essay combinations — the stuff of which a good blog carnival edition is made.

Rather than attempt anything too clever this time around, I think I’ll just string together a bunch of cool quotes, photos and videos, which has been my pattern every since the very first edition. The suggested theme this time was “new discoveries,” which some contributors hewed to more closely than others. But all of the posts were new discoveries for me!

(A word about the format: I’ve included just one link for each item: the direct permalink to the post or article in question, on the theory that having an extra link for the blog or website as a whole is redundant and slightly confusing. But once you click through, please do take the time to explore each site further, if you can.)

Reading the past, preparing for the future

Let’s begin in Australia. Ecologist Ian Lunt shares some of his experiences in learning the read the forest for clues about its past, for example by using 19th-century surveyors’ markings on old eucalypts.

Recently I explored a back corner of Mt Pilot National Park. After pushing through thick forest, I discovered a fence post. It took me aback. Who’d plant a post in a dense forest on a steep rocky hill? I explored more, and found another, and another, in a ragged line heading dead north.

Ash at the UK-based treeblog also put his detective powers to work this month in “Forest forensics.”

This carnage occurred sometime between Sunday afternoon and Tuesday afternoon. […] By coincidence, all of this happened just a few metres away from where I was photographing fungal fruiting bodies on a cherry tree on Sunday afternoon — the subject of the previous post in fact!

At his weather station on South Fidalgo Island, Washington, Dave Wenning wonders, “Are the Madrona Trees Dying?

A question remains about the odd weather patterns we have been experiencing. If these persist over the next several years, how long will the Madronas be able to withstand the insults? When reviewing articles for this post, I was interested to note the mention of how much people adore these trees.

The effect of global climate change on trees — and the ability of forests to mitigate the effects of climate change — appears to have been the driving concern behind the Ministerial Conference on the Protection of Trees in Europe in Oslo this past month. And Pip Howard at European Trees says it was one of the most progressive environmental conferences he’s attended, with a legally binding agreement on forest protection across national boundaries almost sure to result. But he decries the absence of a public voice on the panel, and points out the necessity of improving communication between professional foresters and the general public if the latter is to have truly meaningful input: “There is no point giving the public their landscape to them unless they are able to judge between good or bad management and all too often bad management is confused with good and areas rich in biodiversity are considered poor.”

German writer and publisher Dorothee Lang summarizes a new UN report, State Of the World’s Forests 2011: “seen globally, the forests are shrinking, especially in South America. And some of the growth is due to large monocultures tree plantations.” But in northern Europe, at least, and Germany in particular, there’s room for cautious optimism. Since a low point around 1980, she says, “the pollution of the air and the rivers decreased noticeably. Endangered species are returning. And the forests are growing again.”

Putting a face on the forest

Silvia at Windywillow shares some European tree news of a decidedly more down-home flavor:

The big news this year in my garden is the blooming of my hawthorn tree. She is more than 10 years old, and has only had one flower cluster in her whole life. Until this spring, when she surprised me by bursting into bloom.

Best of all, though, was the photo of her crocheted tree hat.

Windywillow tree hat

News of an even wilder sort comes to us from Danish artist Anne Mølleskov, in the “Charlottenlund Skov (Charlottenlund Forest) near Copenhagen. Here I temporarily transformed the forest into a Face Forest by drawing faces on tree stumps with charcoal.” She adds:

The exhibition and the ephemeral nature of the works was partly inspired by the Russian/Korean author Anatolij Kim, who writes poetically in “Otec-Les”, (“Father-Forest”): “When a human being dies, it becomes a tree”, and “when a tree dies, it becomes a human being”.

We’ll return to that thought at the end of the festival. In the meantime, do click through and check out the photos of Anne’s Face Forest.

Georgia Silvera Seamans of the local ecologist blog sent along a couple of links. Back on May 26, she reviewed a new book called Seeds: One Man’s Serendipitous Journey to Find the Trees That Inspired Famous American Writers from Faulkner to Kerouac, Welty to Wharton, by Richard Horan. She praises the book for its breadth and wealth of detail, and concludes, “This book will make you want to: read the classics, if you have not, or read them again if you have; visit California; and spend more time in the southern U.S.” And just yesterday, Georgia blogged about several new ways in which municipalities and nonprofits are sharing information about urban trees, including a Chicago program that puts literal price tags on trees, calculating the economic value of their environmental services. It’s sad if that’s the only way to convince people of the value of trees, but whatever it takes, I guess.

Ontario naturalist Seabrooke Leckie’s sharp eye and well-stocked reference collection led her to learn a new species this month: the maple eyespot gall midge, Acericecis ocellaris. As she notes, “Leaf galls aren’t that unusual themselves, but this one was pretty interesting for the pattern – perfectly round, pale spots bordered in dark, vibrant pinks and purples.”

Earlier in the month, I produced a video for my site Moving Poems, using a reading by British poet and blogger Dick Jones of a poem called “The Green Man” that was featured in last month’s Festival of the Trees at Rubies in Crystal. Have a look:

The Green Man from Dave Bonta on Vimeo.

And speaking of Rubies in Crystal, Brenda’s own contribution this month was also a videopoem, her “Green Garden” Masque.

The mask’s fronds as if growing out of the forest floor in the Spring. Papier-mache, mulch: paper, or leaves. The face as landscape; the face carrying the landscape with it. Flower colours framing her face; the iridescence of insects, sheen of dragonfly.

Do click through to read all about the process of making it and the thought behind it, as well as to watch it in a larger format. Here’s a smaller-sized embed:

Watch at Rubies in Crystal.

Novelist and poet Marly Youmans posted a series of expressive photos she labeled “Dryadic: among beech and maple” from a conference she attended at West Chester University in eastern Pennsylvania. Here’s one she captioned “Lithe Willendorf Venus. Not stone but tree”:

Marly Youmans - tree at West Chester

Spotlight on India

The world’s largest English-speaking country has often been well represented in the Festival of the Trees, so I thought I’d spotlight the subcontinent for this 5th anniversary edition. A news story at Peaceful Societies: Alternatives to Violence and War reports that the Paliyan, a forest-dwelling people of southern India, are assisting in the rehabilitation of lost or orphaned babies of an endangered squirrel species.

[T]here are only about 500 grizzled giant squirrels left in India, plus a small population in Sri Lanka, due to the loss of their forest habitat. They are the size of small cats, weighing 1 to 1.8 kg (2.2 to 4 pounds) each. The Paliyan efforts for the animals are evidently part of the protection and recovery program of the Shenbagathoppu Grizzled Squirrel Wildlife Sanctuary, an important refuge for the large squirrels. It is also called the Srivilliputhur Grizzled Squirrel Wildlife Sanctuary.

Why the Buddha Sat Under the Bodhi Tree from Mike Finley on Vimeo.

The bo tree, also called peepal or sacred banyan, Ficus religiosa, is a type of strangler fig, a fun fact I discovered last month at the Kew Botanic Gardens in London. As the Wikipedia article on strangler figs puts it,

This growth habit is an adaptation for growing in dark forests where the competition for light is intense. These plants begin life as epiphytes, when their seeds, often bird-dispersed, germinate in crevices atop other trees. These seedlings grow their roots downward and envelop the host tree while also growing upward to reach into the sunlight zone above the canopy.

An original support tree can sometimes die, so that the Strangler Fig becomes a “columnar tree” with a hollow central core.

Certainly, I think many mystics would embrace this as a metaphor for the role of faith in the life of an individual (though the Buddhist scriptures also liken strangler figs to bad karma). Nor is Ficus religiosa the only strangler fig with religious significance in India. The closely related Ficus benghalensis is the banyan tree, and the national tree of India. It’s sacred to Krishna, who states in the Bhagavad Gita, “Of all trees I am the banyan tree.” Here’s my snapshot of a banyan in the Palm House at Kew:

banyan tree at Kew gardens

Uma Gowrishankar, a poet from Chennai in south India, sent along three poems about trees, including one about Ficus religiosa, “Mandala,” and in the accompanying text associates the stories about Krishna with this species rather than F. benghalensis. She may be right. I can’t imagine the authors of the Vedas, the Gita and the Puranas were too concerned about distinguishing between two such similar species (try pinning down the exact species referred to in the Bible sometime!). Uma’s other two poems were about the flowers of the neem tree and the Indian tulip.

Swirl of yellow petticoat,
crimson dreg of passion
at the bottom of the heart
for her man in the plains.

Another Indian blogger, Sahastrarashmi at The Green Ogre, has an eye-opening post about the Cannon Ball Tree (Couroupita guianensis), a native of the Caribbean and South America. “It seems to have been known in India for hundreds of years,” he says — “a mystery, since we do not know how and when it came to our shores.” The photos are lovely and intriguing: flowers and fruit grow directly out of protrusions on the trunk:

Cannon Ball Tree Flower

Despite its relatively brief tenancy in the subcontinent, this tree too has been freighted with religious significance:

The large petals, tapered at the apex with the prominent stigma at the center, have been imagined as a representation of multiple cobra hoods around a Shiv lingam. This has earned the tree several Shiva-associated appellations – Shiv Kamal, Kailaspati, Nagalingam, Nagalinga Pushpa, Mallikarjuna, etc. – and lots of survival aid in the form of propagation near Shiva temples. In the native Amazon (where it’s called Castanha de macaco, monkey nut) it is a favorite of shamans and is believed to provide protection against the ill-disposed spirits of the netherworld.

Do visit The Green Ogre for many more fascinating tidbits about this tree.

Trees as teachers

Back in the middle of June, a few days before the summer solstice, Suzanne at Spirit Whispers found wisdom in the way sycamore flowers and seeds develop:

The variation between trees along the same row can be huge, with some trees in flower before others have barely opened their leaves. Flowers & seeds develop at different rates across the sycamore community, spreading the risk of hitting adverse conditions that could hit fertilisation or the spread of seeds…. increasing the chance that some of them will mature under optimum conditions. Thus the species as a whole has a greater chance of new growth & continuity.

London blogger Jean Morris shares a series of photos taken “Under the trees.” Here’s one example:

Under the trees by Jean Morris

In her accompanying email, she put the photo series in context: “Always there, but newly magical every year: beneath the tall, old trees is a rippling, monochrome shadow-world distinct from the rest of the clashing, chaotic London street scene.”

Another Londoner, who blogs anonymously at twisted rib, reports on a new discovery about root grafting that suggests trees can practice something akin to altruism.

So a fat happy tree with access to lots of sunlight and water might (how? accidentally? in response to a chemical crie de coer?) end up with one of its roots joined to that of an undernourished example of its own kind, comparatively deprived of sunlight and water, and because of this join might slow down its own growth but provide sustenance to its graftee. That’s the new bit – the finding of evidence for individual cost to support another tree, as determined by measuring “radial girth”.

The technical term for the joining of stem, trunk or indeed root to share vascular tissue goes by the delightful name of “inosculation“. Yup, it’s like kissing but with lots more than just tongues.

This can even happen between trees of different species — and apparently carries with it a certain risk. Fascinating!

The flavor of the subtropics pervades a poem by Moira Gentry, simply titled “Tree,” in which a storm ravages a garden full of palms:

he told me how he’d gone out shaken into the savaged morning garden
all his trees down on the ground — lying stormflat under the tough old mangroves.
When I was sick, he told me, when the big storms come, about the palms

“Puerto Rican hat, Anguillan thatch, Cuban royal, Rio Grande, the palms,
honey — chonta, everglade, palmyra, clumping fishtail, I’ll never forget that day
christmas, zombie, Bismark, coconut, yellow butterfly back up over the mangroves —
honey, the palms — by noon they were all standing, every last one, I went in the house
and brought your grandmother out to see what had happened in the garden”

By sheer serendipity, whilst looking for a poetry video to post on Moving Poems this morning, I discovered a reading by Jane Hirshfield of her short poem “Tree” at the end of an interview (also brief), which features an eloquent statement about the role of poetry in contemporary society.

Direct link to video on YouTube.

Tree hunger

Kristin Berkey-Abbott, a poet and theologian from Florida, says that where she lives, “Mangoes Are the New Zucchini.”

Last week, my neighbor had signs on his van: “Yard sale and mangoes.” I went over to see their microwave, and my neighbor shook his head as he dumped another bucket of mangoes on the table. “This is how we spend our week-ends now. We’ve got three trees in the back.”

Summer in the northern hemisphere means mushroom picking season — and without the symbiotic relationships between trees and fungi, forests as we know them could barely exist. Oregon poet Sharon Cooper evokes those summer fungi in “Tiny Citadels.”

We hunger for trees in more ways than one. Nicolette Wong, a fiction writer from Hong Kong, sent along a flash fiction piece. I’m a little hazy on the difference between prose poetry and flash fiction, but the results are nearly always interesting, regardless of what the author calls it:

Cold front is you on the morning I cut through mist. Around the park where old men wave their wooden swords in unison, blunt-edged glory boiling in their veins. I tread a path of oval stones to haunt the trees, reading their names & spirits to make them my allies.

Kentucky-based poet Sherry Chandler continues her year-long meditation on a dogwood tree for The Tree Year, a worthy blogging initiative that we haven’t done enough to promote at the Festival of the Trees. In her 24th post in the series, she shares a photo of “sun dogs on the dogwood,” and concludes with a poem about another species, American sweetgum, by her friend Sally Rosen Kindred.

Here it stands, finally, in the chapter marked
Flowering Trees, and I’m afraid to read
the words, as if their spiny tongues could curl
to touch heartwood, that underbark where the sap
no longer goes.

Speaking of tree years, we got a contribution this month from A Year With the Trees blog, also based in the southern Appalachians. Rebecca shares a discovery about the redbud tree, Cercis canadensis, of which I was completely unaware: not only are the flowers beautiful, but the seed pods are edible — and nutritious:

Nutritional studies have found high concentrations of condensed tannins (proanthocyanidins) in new green Redbud seed pods. Green Redbud seed pods also revealed the presence of the essential fatty acids linoleic and alpha-linolenic acid. Oleic and palmitic acids were also present in the green seed pods.

They taste like sugar snap peas, she says.

Here at Via Negativa the other day, I compiled a short history of sassafras beer, prompted by my discovery of an old recipe in a book from 1888, which also included another brewing ingredient I’m anxious to experiment with: wild cherry bark.

Returning to Australia where we began, Aadhaar at Entropy and Light grapples with “This thing we have for trees“:

I’m organising my nascent funeral and natural interrment right now, and there’s that classical image to contend with in my mind – the planting of a tree to commemorate a loved one. I have seen tales where people have been buried foetal-like, with a fruiting tree planted atop, and later excavation has revealed a human-skeleton-shaped network of roots as the hungry tree recycles the body’s nutrients and carbon back into use, seamlessly, over time. Who wouldn’t love that?

What is the origin of our special relationship with trees, he wonders. This is a question tree bloggers have been pondering for at least the last five years, and as long as we continue, I doubt we’ll run out of creative answers. But I think Aadhaar’s conclusion is right on the money: “I would humbly submit that by sorting out our relationship with trees, we would go far with sorting out our relationship with our fellow man.”


That’s it for this month’s edition. It’s a holiday weekend in the U.S. and Canada, but I hope you’ll take the time to follow the links, read all the contributions, and leave comments when you can. As successful as the Festival of the Trees has become in terms of international participation and readership, I do think we could all stand to be a little more sociable, myself included. Thanks to everyone who sent in links, and I hope I’ll see you all still around for the Festival’s tenth anniversary in 2016! In the meantime, start thinking about “Lessons We Have Learned From Trees” — that will be the theme for next month’s edition at Beyond the Brambles. Email links to Kate (beyondthebrambles [at] gmail [dot] com), or submit through our online form, by 11:59 p.m. on July 30 to be included in Festival 62.

Festival of the Trees returns to Via Negativa on July 1

The world’s longest-running — and probably only — blog carnival devoted to all things arboreal, the Festival of the Trees, turns five next month. Its very first edition appeared on July 1, 2006 right here at Via Negativa, so it seemed fitting to bring it back for edition #61. The theme is open, but I’m especially interested in new discoveries about trees and forests, either of a scientific or personal nature.

If you’re unfamiliar with the concept of a blog carnival, think of it as a homeless links blog which crashes on a different blog-couch every month. Or as my FOTT co-conspirator Jade Blackwater puts it (see What’s a Blog Carnival?):

A blog carnival is a recurring, theme-driven publication which congregates content from many sources in one place online.

A single issue of a blog carnival reads just like a great big blog post filled with links to many other blog posts (or photo galleries, or videos, etc.) that talk about the same subject.

The purpose of a blog carnival is to engage with the world wide community to celebrate subjects of common interest (in our case, trees and forests).

So contributors post material on their own blogs or websites and send the links to the host of the upcoming edition. For FOTT #61, email your article permalinks to me: bontasaurus (at) yahoo (dot) com, and be sure to put “Festival of the Trees” in the subject line so I’ll know it’s not spam. The deadline is June 30.

We have much more information about the Festival at our coordinating site, but I think the easiest way to grasp the concept is to browse some of the past editions, started with the most recent edition at Rubies in Crystal. This was Brenda Clews’ first time hosting, and she did something very ambitious: ask participants “to record an engagement with a tree or trees, preferably in video, but any form. To talk to the trees and bring back what transpired.” The response was impressive, and included 12 videos. (Note that video embedding is really just a fancy form of linking, and is therefore encouraged in blog carnivals.) Check it out.

I didn’t get around to making a video in time for Brenda’s edition, I’m sorry to say, but I was so impressed by a poem she reprinted from Dick Jones’ blog, I decided to ask Dick if I could make a video for it. He not only agreed, but recorded a reading for me to incorporate. I’ll be sharing this on Moving Poems next week, but here it is for those who can’t wait. (Note that HD is off by default; click on “HD” in the lower right corner if your internet speed supports it.) To read the text of the poem, refer to Brenda’s post.

Watch at Vimeo.

Link roundup: Advice for writers, Planned Parenthood, public radio poetry, treeblogging and the King of the Porcupines

Austin Kleon: “How to Steal Like an Artist (And 9 Other Things Nobody Told Me)”
I usually hate advice posts, but this one is gold. For example:

There was a video going around the internet last year of Rainn Wilson, the guy who plays Dwight on The Office. He was talking about creative block, and he said this thing that drove me nuts, because I feel like it’s a license for so many people to put off making things: “If you don’t know who you are or what you’re about or what you believe in it’s really pretty impossible to be creative.”

If I waited to know “who I was” or “what I was about” before I started “being creative”, well, I’d still be sitting around trying to figure myself out instead of making things. In my experience, it’s in the act of making things that we figure out who we are.

Marly Youmans: “The House of Words (no. 11): One writer’s lessons”
The most popular post in Marly’s on-going series to date. I particularly liked this part:

Every book purchase says you want to read a certain writer and that the publisher should have confidence in him or her. In the case of poetry, a modicum of readers voting this way may even mean that a house decides to retain its poetry line rather than jettisoning it.

The comment thread for that post is also well worth reading.

Busily Seeking… Continual Change: “The Perils of Planned Parenthood”
A very different — and, I would argue, crucial — perspective on “choice,” Planned Parenthood and legislative priorities.

North Country Public Radio: “One April”
Wow, this public radio station’s web manager is doing NaPoWriMo! And they’re good poems, too. Yet another reason to move to the Adirondacks.

Call for Submissions: Festival of the Trees 59 with Spirit Whispers
For Festival 59 our host Suzanne of the Spirit Whispers blog asks, how do trees inspire you?

Watch on YouYube
via Peaceful Societies: “Lepcha Magazine Provides a Cultural Feast”

Link roundup: Festive linguistic spring-like Japanese Green gassy text-generated starless planet

local ecologist: Festival of the Trees #58
Georgia Silvera Seamans’ third stint hosting the monthly blog carnival for all things arboreal, showing just how dedicated some tree bloggers can be! One highlight of this edition is a collection of ten links related to the blossoming season in Japan.

Parmanu: > Language > Place – Edition #5
Each link in this blog carnival gets its own page — or exhibit, to be accurate, since Parmanu terms it a Museum of Language and Place. I’ve looked at hundreds if not thousands of blog carnival editions over the years, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen one this lovingly done, not even at I and the Bird, which is legendary for the creativity of its editions.

Marcia Bonta: “Early Spring”
Mom reports on new projections about what global climate change will likely mean for our particular corner of the planet in terms of species loss and ecosystem shift, and describes the changes we’ve already documented in 40 years of residence in Central Pennsylvania.

Japan Focus: “The Plan to Rebuild Japan: When You Can’t Go Back, You Move Forward. Outline of an Environmental Sound Energy Policy”
Japan Focus is an essential source both for analysis pieces like this, and for up-to-date news on the after-effects of the earthquake, tsunami and meltdown.

Speigel Online: “The New Green Mainstream: A Seismic Shift in Germany’s Political Landscape”

Some might argue that the Green Party’s success in Sunday state elections was the direct result of the Fukushima nuclear disaster. But it’s not. Germany’s political landscape has changed dramatically in recent years. And the Greens have been the primary beneficiary.

What a contrast to the U.S.!

ProPublica: “Pennsylvania Limits Authority of Oil and Gas Inspectors”
This was the biggest news in Pennsylvania this past week as we march bravely into the 19th Century.

P22 Music Text Composition Generator (A free online music utility)
Convert any text to music using the system where each letter of the alphabet is assigned a note.

PhysOrg.com: “Dark matter could provide heat for starless planets”
The imagination reels. Looking for a NaPoWriMo writing prompt? Look no further.


socket 1

With some trees, the knotholes are the last things to go. You can find them staring up from the ground, eye sockets that never belonged to a skull.

socket 3

It makes sense that trees would grow their hardest wood around the weakest points in their architecture. This is called the branch collar, and it is knit with wood first from the branch overlapping onto the trunk, and then from the trunk overlapping onto the branch.

socket 2

Behind the collar, in the parent trunk or limb, the branch core forms. As the Wikipedia entry on branch collars puts it,

The accretion of layers of wood behind the branch collar is a conical decay-resistant structure called the branch core. The knot found in lumber is this branch core.

When woody plants naturally shed branches because they are nonproductive, usually from lack of light, these branches die back to the branch collar. Insects and fungi decompose the dead branch, and it eventually falls off, leaving the exposed branch core. The branch core resists the spread of decay organisms into the parent branch or trunk during the time it takes for the woundwood, or callus, to seal over the wound.

socket 4

There are intergrown and encased knots, loose and sound and pin knots, red knots and black knots. Whatever you call them, though, they can’t be untied. So they are not really knots, but heads — what else goes through a collar? — dense, convoluted, and all too easy to lose.

For the Festival of the Trees.

Link roundup: Blog carnivals, revolutions, and remnants from the Ice Age

tasting rhubarb: >Language >Place Blog Carnival – Edition 4
I don’t know why it took me so long to participate in this blog carnival, founded by the indefatigable web publisher Dorothee Lang, but better late than never, I guess. How could I refuse when I knew one of my favorite bloggers was hosting this edition? And a very graceful collection of links and quotes it is. (See the coordinating site for more about the carnival.)

Rebecca in the Woods: Festival of the Trees #57
Thirty-six links this time! And just a year ago we were wondering if it might not be time to fold up the tents for good. Clearly, the FOTT is alive and well. Highlights for me this time included a post on the 500-year-old Sully trees of France, with a portrait of one of the survivors; an illustrated tutorial from a Dutch artist on how to weave living sculptures out of willows; and a fascinating and learned essay on “A Linguistic Permaculture of the Oak.” (See also the call for submissions to #58.)

DiscoveryNews: “The Iceman Mummy: Finally Face to Face”
It turns out that Ötzi was a hippie burn-out.

Al Jazeera: “In search of an African revolution
Azad Essa wonders why the international news media are turning a blind eye to protests in Ivory Coast, Gabon, Khartoum and Djibouti, and acting as if the current wave of unrest stops at the Sahara.

Office Buddha: “My first trip to a buddhist temple”
One of the best “first time meditating” essays I’ve read, in part because of this line: “Meditation wasn’t like praying, it was more like defragging a hard drive.”

Marcia Bonta: “Talus Slope Life
This month in her Naturalist’s Eye column for the Pennsylvania Game News, Mom writes about one of the most unique and characteristic habitats of the central Appalachians — one largely unchanged since the last Ice Age.

Salon.com: “Bradley Manning could face death: for what?
Glenn Greenwald writes,

Thus do we have the strange spectacle of Americans cheering on the democratic uprisings in the Middle East and empathizing with the protesters, all while revering American political leaders who for years helped sustain the dictatorships which oppressed them and disdaining those (Manning) who may have played a role in sparking the protests.

New York Times: “Libya’s Patient Revolutionaries
By Libyan novelist Mohammad al-Asfar, translated by Ghenwa Hayek. Best thing I’ve read on the Libyan revolution so far.

PBS NewsHour: “Benghazi-Born Poet Mattawa Reflects on Growing up Under Gadhafi
Good follow-up to the previous story.

The New Yorker: “On the Square: Were the Egyptian protesters right to trust the military?
The kind of in-depth reporting for which the New Yorker is famous. Wendell Steavenson booked a hotel room overlooking Tahrir Square and spent a good deal of time with the revolutionaries and soldiers. I loved the descriptions of ordinary people transformed by extraordinary events, and of course I’m a sucker for the whole, idealistic utopian thing that Liberation Square embodied. But the role of the military in all this, and the way the protesters were able to co-opt it, is one of the most unique and fascinating aspects of Egypt’s Gandhian revolution.

Al Jazeera: “The Middle East feminist revolution
Naomi Wolf points out that, among other factors, the role of social media such as Facebook in organizing protests has allowed women to side-step the hierarchical leadership structures of more traditional revolutionary movements. I can’t help wondering whether, in decades to come, Egytians will have a Marianne to symbolize their post-revolutionary society. (Probably not. Seems un-Islamic.)

Link roundup: Tenrecs, monostiches, kale and other wonders

The New York Times:When Democracy Weakens
Bob Herbert wishes Americans would take a cue from the Egyptians.

NPR: “An Immigrant’s Quest For Identity In The ‘Open City’
I have been reading the glowing reviews for Teju Cole’s new novel with great pleasure, but it was especially fun to hear this interview come on the radio while I was kneading bread this morning. I was all like, “Hey, I know that guy! I’ve published his stuff at Via Negativa and qarrtsiluni!” So good to see a member of the old blog neighborhood make it big.

Grant Hackett: Monostich Poet blog
I don’t link Grant’s poems in the Smorgasblog because they’re too short to excerpt — a monostich is a one-line poem and he excels at them. I don’t know anyone who packs more mystery and suggestiveness into such a small space. He used to blog at Falling Off the Mountain, but took that site offline late last year. On the new site, he seems to post at the rate of about one or two poems a day.

Moving Poems forum: “What comes first, the video or the poem?
Check out the variety of responses to my question from videopoets at all skill levels. I am going to have to remember to throw out questions to the community like this more often.

Voice Alpha:To read or to recite? Dramatic versus Epic
Dick Jones — poet, musician and retired drama teacher — wades into the debate about how best to present one’s poems to a crowd. Surprisingly, perhaps, given his background, he comes down rather decisively on the side of reading.

Call for Submissions: Festival of the Trees 57 with Rebecca in the Woods
Rebecca is one of the best young naturalist-bloggers out there, so we are very lucky to have her as host of the next Festival of the Trees.

Linebreak: “To Failure:” by Christopher Ankney
My first reading for Linebreak, a magazine I admire. Don’t know the poet from Adam, but I know the subject all too well! It was fun to learn the poem this way, over a series of half a dozen takes, even if I was a bit too tired to give it as good a reading as it deserves.

BBC Earth News: “Madagascar’s elusive shell-squatting spider filmed
Speaking of failure, check out the first spider in this clip from the redoubtable David Attenborough & co. (a win for photography and evolution). Then there’s…
Bizarre mammals filmed calling using their quills
Tenrecs! Stridulating!

(Watch on YouTube)
In a rare trip off the mountain, a chance remark at the coffee shop led me to discover that I was surrounded by fellow kale afficionados, and one of them later sent me the link to this video. What used to be an obscure vegetable back when we started growing it in the garden in the early 70s has now apparently achieved cult status. Who’d have thunk it?

Link roundup: Cloud Studies, Nabokov’s blues, beech trees and other curiosities

I share a lot of links on Facebook. This is some of what I’ve shared since last Monday, with the exception of links to new posts on qarrtsiluni, Moving Poems, Woodrat Photoblog, The Morning Porch, and here on VN. (Have to wonder how many of my Facebook contacts have blocked my posts by now!)


Poetry for the Masses has a new website with PDFs of recent broadsheets. These aren’t the arty kind of broadsheets that cost $40 apiece, but the true, 18th-century kind designed for mass distribution.


Cloud Studies — a sonnet sequence
Take a half-hour to listen to these extraordinary poems by Christine Klocek-Lim, Whale Sound’s most impressive audio chapbook yet. (And that’s saying a lot, because the first two also kicked ass.)


Treeblog: Festival of the Trees 56
What is it about trees that evokes such interesting responses from such a broad range of people?


New York Times: “Nabokov Theory on Polyommatus Blue Butterflies Is Vindicated” by the always wonderful Carl Zimmer. “Nabokov was right – so was Stephen Jay Gould wrong?” asks Jessica Palmer at Bioephemera. Yes, turns out he was. Which makes me happy, because Gould was a very over-rated writer and a pompous ass.


The Onion: “Republicans Vote To Repeal Obama-Backed Bill That Would Destroy Asteroid Headed For Earth”
To me, this is masterful satire not because it makes Republicans look like bigger fools than Democrats, but because it so effectively skewers the absurd and narcissistic parochialism of American politics.


Voice Alpha: “To read or to recite?”
My simple question about public poetry performance theory elicits a number of quite varied and passionate responses.


the cassandra pages: “Down for the Gender Count…or is it Up?”
Beth Adams finds that qarrtsiluni’s gender gap continues to widen. She quotes me on the importance of having a schlong.


Poetry Daily: “Naked I Come, Naked I Go,” by Marilyn Chin
If you’re a fan of the late poet Ai, check out this wonderful tribute/imitation by Marilyn Chin. (The last lines are a reference to the fact that Ai never learned to drive.)


Marcia Bonta: “The Beautiful Beech”
My mom’s monthly nature column. For once, she picked a subject I had no trouble illustrating with my own photos — one of my favorite trees.


(watch on YouTube)
The ultimate annoying little sister (brother?). This is one of the latest captures from the den cam in Minnesota, showing an unusual multi-age black bear family (Hope is one year old, her siblings just a couple weeks old).


Writing Our Way Home is a new online community I’ve joined. Founded by British blogger, novelist, and writing coach Fiona Robyn and her fiance Kaspalita, a Buddhist priest and the resident tech guru, it’s for people interested in writing with attention, especially in the form they call “small stones“: “short pieces of writing that precisely capture a fully-engaged moment.” Since this is obviously something I’ve been trying to do at The Morning Porch for quite some time, I couldn’t not join, despite feeling already a bit over-committed online. The site uses Ning, and has most of the same functionality as Facebook, only easier to figure out: groups, forums, personal pages with walls (and blogs), etc. Do join if this interests you. I’ve been interacting with Fiona online for quite a few years, and she even edited an issue of qarrtsiluni once for us — the only solo editor ever to do so — so I am fairly confident in predicting that this community will still be around five years from now if she has anything to do with it.