Forests, trees, and people–Writer’s Quote Wednesday

forest-411491_640.jpgIt suddenly came to me: ‘This week I will post quotes about trees.’  A  TreeHugger article had presented itself in my email —it was about a book to be released in English in September, The Hidden Life of Trees by  German forest ranger, Peter Wohlleben. Applying experience and science, he talks about how trees communicate and cooperate with each  other. I have no quotes from his book as the English version is not out yet.  Instead, here is an example of  what scientists are saying about trees from The Secret Life of Trees by Colin Tudge:

The revelations build by the week: ….. how they speak to one another, warning others downwind that elephants or giraffes are on the prowl, how they mimic the pheromones of predatory insects that are eating their leaves.  Every week the insights grow more fantastical—trees seem less and less like monuments and more and more like the world’s appointed governors, ultimately controlling all life on land…but also the key to its survival.

Colin Tudge, The Secret Life of Trees: How they Live, and Why they Matter, 2005, Crown Publishing Group, New York.

forest-56930_640.jpgA second tree-themed discovery: a  recent blog post by Your Nibbled News called Caring for trees the ultimate job–Taking care of the future today.  It opens with a photo with this caption:

Caring for trees would be the ultimate job for me. This desire has no direct relationship to the biblical Garden of Eden. Trees protect the planet and humanity from imminent disaster. They should be protected, respected, groomed and nurtured. They are this planet’s oldest sentinels. They deserve our care and consideration.

Warmed by these ideas and words, I found two more quotes  to feature. In the first, Sylvia Earle, scientist, speaks about the intricate web of life visible to those who have the opportunity, time, and inclination to look.

Look at the bark of a redwood, and you see moss. If you peer beneath the bits and pieces of the moss, you’ll see toads, small insects, a whole host of life that prospers in that miniature environment. A lumberman will look at a forest and see so many board feet of lumber. I see a living city.

Sylvia Earle, American Scientist, 1935-

I have lived in cities most of my life.  The house I grew up in had one maple tree in front and one maple tree out back.  The whole yard, except the part facing the road, was surrounded by a tall cedar hedge regularly trimmed by my father. Sometimes in the autumn my father took us for walks in the woods; and for three weeks in the summer, I explored the woods near a rented cottage.  These were exciting times.

The tree which moves some to tears of joy is in the eyes of others only a green thing that stands in the way. Some see nature all ridicule and deformity… and some scarce see nature at all. But to the eyes of the man of imagination, nature is imagination itself.

William Blake, 1757-1827

robin-534826_640.jpgThese words, written so many years ago seem to still reflect the world–there are many people who see the natural world as a backdrop to be utilized and organized by humans.  Yet there are many people who care about nature.  I believe everyone has the capacity for imagination and experiencing joy in the natural world (and of course, having imagination isn’t necessarily tied to appreciation of trees).   I  believe that both imagination and connection to nature are desirable human qualities that can flourish or fade away. These potentials can be eroded by pressures of survival, ambition, religious worldviews, and economic philosophies.  Whether or not people connect with trees, birds, and so on, is influenced strongly by life experiences  and choices from birth onwards.

Photos are CCO Public Domain, courtesy of
In response to Writer’s Quote Wednesday and Be Writing on Wednesday (BeWoW).


The powerful play goes on…

I have been so wrapped up in considering chocolate, consumerism, and free trade, that I need a break.  For my Wednesday quote, I looked for a poem.  I came upon Oh me! Oh Life! by Walt Whitman—it starts with a world-weary tone, but ends on a positive note. Putting aside the 19th-century language, it could have been written today. If the white print on blue is difficult to read, please keep scrolling for the black on white version.

oh me oh life walt whitman

Oh me! Oh life!
of the questions of these recurring,
Of the endless trains of the faithless, of cities fill’d with the foolish,
Of myself forever reproaching myself, (for who more foolish than I, and who more faithless?)
Of eyes that vainly crave the light, of the objects mean, of the struggle ever renew’d,
Of the poor results of all, of the plodding and sordid crowds I see around me,
Of the empty and useless years of the rest, with the rest me intertwined,
The question, O me! so sad, recurring—What good amid these, O me, O life?


That you are here—that life exists and identity,
That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.

Source:  Leaves of Grass, 1892, by Walt Whitman

Walt Whitman was an American poet, essayist and journalist who lived from 1819 to 1892. Whitman’s poetry often deviates from traditional poetic form; his writing often seems more like prose than poetry. Critics often refer to Whitman as ‘the father of free-verse,’ even though he did not invent this style — he just popularized it”.

My post is in response to Writer’s Quote Wednesday and Be Writing on Wednesday. Please follow the links to find inspiring and thought-provoking quotes.

A fundamental right

The-environmental values suzuki

The environment is so fundamental to our continued existence that it must transcend politics and become a central value of all members of society.

∼ David Suzuki, The Sacred Balance: Rediscovering Our Place in Nature

Did you know that roughly 100 nations have environmental rights enshrined in their constitutions along with human rights?  This means that their highest law guarantees environmental rights such as clean water, clean air, safe food, and uncontaminated soil. Ironically, the nations that do not yet have such protection embedded in their laws include industrialized countries such as the United States, Canada, Australia, China, Japan and New Zealand.

The Blue Dot movement, backed by the David Suzuki Foundation, is endeavouring to win support across Canada for enshrining environmental rights in our constitution.  Their strategy is to work from lower levels of government up.  In December, Toronto was the 100th city to sign a Blue Dot declaration enshrining citizen rights to clean air, safe water and food, a stable climate and a say in decisions that affect their well-being.  The end goal is a federal environmental bill of rights or a constitutional amendment.

Why is it so important to embed environmental rights in the constitution?  A constitution reflects the fundamental values of a society and is not easily changed. Constitutional rights to a healthy environment and stable climate will promote strong environmental protection laws that cannot be easily overturned. Such rights will empower the courts to make decisions that reinforce those laws.

Interested in reading more?  My best source was The Constitutional Right to a Healthy Environment, by David R. Boyd, Environment Magazine, July-August 2012.


Visit our quote hosts’ websites to read their writer musings for today, and links to other submissions

 SilverThreading  and RonovanWrites


Canaries in the coal mine–haiku and quotes

Fumes seep and spiral,
Canaries in the coal mine
Chirp their last faint song.

RonovanWrites’ prompts of the week (trill and final) made me think of canaries in a coal mine.  Initially, I had an image of canaries singing to warn of danger.  However the canary warning is not their chirping–it’s their death.  Miners used to bring caged canaries into mines to warn them of dangerous gas leaks. When their feathered friends passed out, they knew it was time to get out of the mine.

As Wednesday is the day I do a quotations post, I searched for  a ‘canary in the coal mine’ quote.  I was not disappointed.  I found three interesting candidates–the first two have an environmental theme and the third one offers artistic inspiration.


“Whales are humanity’s canary in the coal mine,…As ocean pollution levels increase, marine mammals like whales will be among the first to go.”

Roger Searle Payne (born January 29, 1935) is an American biologist and environmentalist famous for the 1967 discovery (with Scott McVay) of whale song among humpback whales. Payne later became an important figure in the worldwide campaign to end commercial whaling.



“I believe that these sea lions that are washing up along the coast are actually acting as important canaries in the coal mine, warning us of some ocean changes that contribute in fact to human health.”

Dr. Frances Gulland is the Director of Veterinary Science at the Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito, CA. Dr. Gulland has been actively involved in the veterinary care of stranded marine mammals and research into marine mammal diseases since 1994.

State of California Ocean Protection Council

I-sometimes-wondered kurt vonnegut

I sometimes wondered what the use of any of the arts was. The best thing I could come up with was what I call the canary in the coal mine theory of the arts.  This theory says that artists are useful to society because they are so sensitive.  They are super-sensitive. They keel over like canaries in poison coal mines long before more robust types realize that there is any danger whatsoever.”

What do you think about Kurt Vonnegut’s theory?  I believe he was pondering human survival and asking ‘how do the arts promote the survival of humankind?’  His answer, quoted above, is that artists (writers, painters, photographers, dancers, actors, musicians, etc) are more sensitive; in touch with feelings, senses, imagination, intuition, and such.  Artists notice more of what is going on in the world.

A bit elitist or grandiose?  Perhaps, but Vonnegut may have been onto something.  Another approach would be to attribute sensitivity to artistic endeavour rather than to those who pursue it full-time.  In other words, people are more fulfilled and aware when they can incorporate the arts into their lives. We all have the potential to be canaries in the coal mine.

Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. (November 11, 1922 – April 11, 2007) was an American novelist known for works blending satire, black comedy, and science fiction.



In the mood for more quotes? Visit RonovanWrites and SilverThreading.


Difference between a firefly and lightning bolt–#Writer’s Quote Wednesday#BeWoW


The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter–’tis the difference between the lightning-bug and the lightning.

This quote resonates with me.  There are many ways a thought can be expressed–even a single word can make a difference.  Sometimes words just flow.  Other times, a better phrase comes to mind after a break.  One thing I have been enjoying about blogging is that the process encourages spontaneity and sharing,  as opposed to hiding thoughts in a drawer, embarrassed by their imperfection.  However, knowing there is such a thing as a lightning flash, as opposed to the spark of a firefly, inspires my attention.

According to, Mark Twain (1835-1910) offered this advice for George Bainton’s compilation, The Art of Authorship, 1890. Best known for The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Adventures of  Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain was a prolific American  writer, humorist, and public speaker. Writing under a pen name, his real name was Samuel Langhorne Clemens.

This post is a contribution to SilverThreading’s Writer’s Quote Wednesday and RonovanWrites’ Be Writing on Wednesday (BeWoW).  Have a great Wednesday!


Roll in the mud and track it into the house–#Writers Quote Wednesday, #BeWoW

As snow fell outside, I browsed The Napanee Beaver, a local paper.  This headline caught my eye: ‘My top 5 garden resolutions’.   It’s  pleasant to think about gardening while I wait for the storm to end–and I imagine that, as I write, some of my readers may be out in greenery.   Mark Cullen’s resolutions have a spiritual leaning, titled: ‘Think’, ‘Peace’, ‘Love’, ‘Nature’, and ‘Quiet’.  These words captured me the most:


Nature is everywhere.  It is in the air that we breathe and every sinew of our bodies.  We are a part of nature and a product of it. Think about that next time you are tempted to yell at the kids for bringing mud into the house.

At this time of year I can be almost nostalgic about tracking mud in–no kids here, but between me, my partner, and the dogs, we track in enough muck.  Sure, I try to leave my shoes outside the door, but dirt gets in anyways–and then I mop it up.   The free spirit and breath of spring attract me to Mark Cullen’s words.  Mark Cullen is a well-known Canadian gardening guru who appears on TV and radio and  authors a  gardening  website.

Inspired by thoughts of mud, I found another quote, this one by Carl Sandburg.  It speaks for itself I believe:


There is an eagle in me that wants to soar, and there is a hippopotamus in me that wants to wallow in the mud.

Carl Sandburg was an American author and poet living from 1878 to 1967; winner of three Pulitzer prizes for works of poetry and his biography of Abraham Lincoln.  I tried to find out where and when he said these words, but was not successful.

This post is in response to Writer’s Quote Wednesday, hosted by Colleen Chesebro of Silver Threading and Be Writing on Wednesday (BeWoW) hosted by Ronovan Hester of Ronovan Writes.  Please visit these sites for more quotes and reflective writing.


Naomi Klein: courage to speak out

And that is what is behind the abrupt rise in climate change denial among hardcore conservatives: they have come to understand that as soon as they admit that climate change is real, they will lose the central ideological battle of our time—whether we need to plan and manage our societies to reflect our goals and values, or whether that task can be left to the magic of the market.”
Naomi Klein, This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate

I was recently asked to think of famous women who inspire me for the #Girllove challenge (my post for this is coming up soon).  Naomi Klein came to mind.  She is a Canadian, author, social activist, and Canadian filmmaker who dares to challenge the status quo.  A main thesis in one of her books, This Changes Everything, is that popular approaches to government and economics have interfered with our ability to confront climate change.  The truth of her theory, that vested interests resisted governmental regulation,  is emerging.  It is coming to light that major corporations concealed and denied the science that connected burning of fossil fuels to global warming.

In the wake of  the UN Climate Summit in Paris, governments will be grappling with the very issues that Ms Klein alludes to in  this quote.  To follow through on carbon reduction pledges, regulations limiting carbon emissions will have to be enforced, and further measures, such as carbon taxes, will have to be imposed.  Rather than stand back and let the free market steer humanity, governments– with the support of  voting citizens– will have to take the wheel and proceed with bold initiatives.  There is talk of changes in Canada from our federal government and from the provinces–my eye will be on my home province, Ontario.

When I looked up Naomi Klein for this post, I discovered that her mother is Bonnie Sherr Klein, documentary filmmaker, best known for a documentary I saw a long time ago.   Not a Love Story:  A film about pornography was released in 1982 by Studio D, the Women’s Studio of the National Film Board of Canada.  Against pornography, but also showing it, the film was initially restricted in Ontario.  It seems that the courage to speak out is a strength in the Klein family.

For more Writer’s Quote Wednesday posts, please visit SilverThreading.