What the trees are saying

In recent decades it has become clear that trees communicate in a language of pheromones, and that the language crosses species lines through the forest.  In this passage from Richard Powers’s new novel, The Overstory, the trees are talking, the humans listen in.

The black spruces down the drumlin put it bluntly: warm is feeding on warm. The permafrost is belching. The cycle speeds up.

Farther south, broadleaves agree.  Noisy aspens and remnant birches, forests of cottonwoods and poplars take up the chorus: The world is turning into a new thing.  

The man rolls over onto his back, face to face with the morning sky.  The messages swarm him. Even here, homeless, he thinks: Nothing will be the same.  

The spruces answer:  Nothing has ever been the same.
___We’re all doomed,
the man thinks.
We have always all been doomed.
____But things are different this time.
Yes, you are here.

He’ll strike camp tomorrow, or the day after.  But this minute, this morning, he watches the spruces writing and thinks, I wouldn’t need to be very different for sun to seem to be about sun, for green to be about green.  For joy and boredom and anguish and terror and death to all be themselves without any need for killing clarity, and then this—THIS, the growing rings of light and water and stone—would take up all of me and be all the words I need.img_4475

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