Saturday, June 30, 2012

The Sensuality of Green

All the greens of summer upon which our eyes feast. Look. Look around.
The greens they calm our savage cones and rods, keep them busy photosynthesizing the multitudinous matters of greenity. Grass, weeds, bushes, shrubs, herbs, trees (sugar maple, silver maple, oak, cherry, cedar, Virginia pine, Kentucky cigar, autumn olive berry, walnut, filbert, apple, pear, peach), duckweed, you name it.
Lime, forest, olive, mint, sage, hunter, pine, sea. Not enough names for all the variances of shade and light and tone.
Green, you want to see green? The fields of Ireland are neon. 
The greens of summer engage all my senses: I see them, hear them, smell them, feel them, taste them.
On a sunshiny weekday afternoon, crossing the field. The tall grass? It tickles me shins. The cherry tree? It caresses my arms. The pond weeds? They whisper my arrival.  

When loneliness comes stalking, go into the fields, consider
the orderliness of the world. Notice
something you have never noticed before, 
like the tambourine sound of the snow-cricket
whose pale green body is no longer than your thumb.
(from The Leaf and the Cloud by Mary Oliver)
 And my ears. Hammer, anvil and stirrup tremble with secret pleasure at the gentle rustling of the woods at night (trees, they dance in the dark) like ladies’ long taffeta skirts or the applause of the elderly on a Sunday afternoon. Before a storm their stewing branches and leaves form a cacophony of alarmed voices, becoming with the jays, crows, swallows, squirrels and rumbling thunder, an orchestra.
 Stepping into the room of “forest,” it’s like … like shutting a door on the world. All outside sounds are muffled. Deep breaths take in olfactory contentment. Pools of sylvanshine illuminate the undergrowth and become jewels. Jewels I tell you. Gems of such beauty. A tri-petaled chartreuse flower, so tiny. Tree ferns, so delicate. Moss, so soft. Pitcher plants, so intelligent.
 You don’t experience this stuff on a TVphonecomputermovie screen.
Once, in a Maine State Forest, my family and I were walking when my father suddenly laid down on his back. The rest of us had no idea what he was doing.
“Come on, lay down,” he said. “Look up.” I lay down next to him and looked up. Straight up the tall trunks to the leafy canopy overhead. Up the depth, the movement, the sparkles of green light.
Consider the machinations of a single leaf.
 The sunlight hits the leaf’s broad surface, which actually absorbs the energy by its green pigment, chlorophyll. So the energy goes into the leaf.
In the meantime, the underside of the leaf is working too. It’s full of tiny pores called stomata. Each stoma absorbs a raw material from the air, carbon dioxide. So the carbon dioxide goes into the leaf.
 In the meantime, the tree’s roots have absorbed water, which travels upward through tiny pipes called xylem, to … guess where? The leaf! So the water goes into the leaf.
So now we’ve got energy, CO2 and water. The energy joins the CO2 and water to produce a form of sugar called glucose. Glucose is tree’s food. It travels to the rest of the tree through tiny pipes called phloem.
 As in any production plant, there is a waste product. The waste product of photosynthesis is oxygen. Oxygen! What a gift.
 From what I understand, too much carbon in the air is bad for humans. Perhaps it is for lack of trees.
A few weeks ago I was in Boston. My friend who lives in a section called Somerville says her town’s surface is only six percent canopy.
Trees, our stalwart faithful silent sentinels, can save us.
Thou shalt not “trim” off all of their branches, leaving them with no leaves, no way to absorb sunlight, no way to produce glucose, no way to feed themselves. They die.
“The tree which moves some to tears of joy is in the eyes of others only a green thing that stands in the way” (William Blake).
The greens of summer feed me, too. Lettuce, kale, peas, cucumbers, zucchini, asparagus, green beans, peppers. Picked washed sliced diced sautéed grilled baked boiled broiled or raw chewed swallowed.
From the sun to the plant to me:
Nourishment in the first degree.
The food chain begins with the sun. How far should we stray from that? In the summer, it is only a few feet.
 The greens of summer. Just outside the door.