Against a stout trunk perhaps four feet wide, a medium giant, maybe two hundred years old, has fallen. Or rather, it is falling. It certainly began to fall but now it is resting against the other. And more than simply resting, it is creaking, as if it might shatter the serenity any moment and collapse against the moss-conquered earth. You stand beneath the path where the trunk is sure to fall any moment and stare upwards at it. You raise your arms to the sky and prepare yourself to embrace and be crushed by this tree that is perhaps seven or ten times your age. But as long as you are willing to wait, it only creaks. You can’t see the bark shredding, the molecules shedding and breaking. It’s happening in slow motion, impossible to engineer and yet happening now to thousands of trees all over the planet.
Half-way between the canopy and the seeping earth the trunk strains to bear the weight. Someday it will fall completely and finish the journey to the earth that took days or weeks or months. Or years.
A squirrel, believing you to be a tree, appears with a fir cone in her mouth. Small, feral, and curious, she peers at you. Much more motionless than any park squirrel you have seen, she squats on her haunches and cocks her head back and forth. Timidly, she climbs onto various branches and tries to tempt you into action- to prove you are not a tree. But you stand as silent as a three-hundred-foot fir. After what seems like an hour she winks at you and then disappears with her fir cone. You listen to the dull living hush of the breeze and the stillness of that ancient grove. The squirrel stores her panoply of cones somewhere for the winter.
You are brought back from imagining winter snows by the creak of the old tree that is still falling.
Standing below it, you wonder how many sages have stood in this grove and listened to a falling tree. How many years would a sage listen to a falling tree before she became wise?
After this tree finally falls, how long would you need to meditate on the dense quiet of the deep grove before hearing the next one begin to fall? How much longer before it finally touched crown to ground and began the hum of nourishing the next generation?
While waiting and contemplating, how many storms of lightning and thunder would you experience? How many rainy days? How many hot? How many ants would climb across your leg? How many trips to the stream to drink the cool, heavy water?
What kind of person would you be if you stopped to listen to the falling of seven trees in this ancient grove?
Would you even live that long?
There is an ancient manner of being in these trees. It is a manifestation that transcends humanity completely. In the last two hundred years all but approximately four percent of the old growth forests have fallen. Imagine cutting to pieces or burning all but four percent of your body. All but 4% of a city…
What would it sound like if you could hear all the trees that are falling right now? Is that the death knell of the lungs of the earth?
If a tree falls in the forest and there is no one there to hear it…does it make a sound? Will there be anybody to hear the saplings fall hundreds of years from now?