I often think back to my first close-up view of Mount Denali. I had hiked up Mount Quigley one late August morning, providing a clear, cloud-free view of Denali’s north face from just 20 miles. Because the big one rises from 2,000 feet above sea level on its north side, it ascended within my field of view 18,000 feet vertical, all of it visible in one magnificent image. I could imagine nothing more grand. Everest reaches 11,000 feet higher, yet no where does it show an 18,000 vertical face. Even as I contemplate such grandeur, I recall someone saying decades ago that were Earth the size of a ping-pong ball, it would actually be smoother than the little plastic sphere. Scale determines so much. Close to my temporary WV home, Dolly Sods provides some great panoramas (this view and the Feature Image of this post):
Beautiful in that larger view, the Sods generate yet another scale of special beauty and perspective up close:
Slice the scene even more narrowly, and a hidden world emerges. We found this unidentified fungal fruiting body trail-side on a fallen birch, still at Dolly Sods.
Beauty, magic, awe, and wonder await the discerning hiker… the hiker who looks and sees. Perhaps decades ago, I remember a Nature documentary that began at day-to-day human scale and successively led the viewer outward into space one order of magnitude distance at a time. Out through the solar system, into the Milky Way, and then beyond into deep space, and other galaxies. I felt smaller and even more insignificant with each ten-fold leap.
The television program then reversed from human scale, by orders of magnitude smaller. Into the soil litter, soil micro-organisms, and by scale eventually into atomic and sub-atomic. Once again, scale makes all the difference. We can observe the forest at the price of missing the trees; and the trees at the cost of missing component life (and death). Yet another unidentified fungus infects this standing dead hickory about eight inches in diameter:
A living tree stands by the strength of its cellulose; a fungus stands by the sustenance it draws from the cellulose, digesting it one cell wall at a time. Each one of those minute fungal fruiting bodies will eject thousands, if not millions, of spores. Wind-borne (or maybe insect-disseminated) spores may have the good fortune of happening upon a recently dead, not yet colonized, host species. That tiny, invisible spore operates at a smaller scale. Each division has a division, and subsequently smaller world. A dead beech sapling also hosts micro-organisms, both fungal fruiting bodies and lichen mats.
As does a prostrate white pine:
Life is rich at multiple scales, each providing a glimpse into smaller and smaller domains, down to to the molecular. Though life does not extend outward larger and larger without end, the non-living world certainly reaches far beyond. At the risk of repeating one comparative example I’ve used from the lectern and in other postings, a photon would travel seven times around Earth in one second. That same photon at the speed of light would reach the center of our Milky Way galaxy, with its several hundred billion stars, only after 25,000 years. And our Milky way, this unimaginably large star cluster, is only one of some two trillion such galaxies. Too immense to grasp? You bet! So let’s return to our human scale world.
I found this multi-storied, yellow poplar apartment complex at Valley Falls State Park during the summer. Excavated by pileated woodpeckers in search of insect protein, these cavities now house all manner of life: insect, small mammals, snails, fungus, and who knows what else. All elements are intimately inter-related, from the cosmic to the sub-atomic.
What a blessed, miraculously interdependent world — physical and organic. The yellow poplar apartment complex will one day succumb to the forces of life, death, and gravity. This 30-inch-plus diameter, deceased maple is decaying toward the horizontal, even as a beech sapling stands ready to absorb and prosper from nutrients long-since sequestered as the maple flourished:
Leaves from a still-living red maple bring early fall color to this mossy seep among the rhododendrons atop Dolly Sods.
Not far from the boggy forest interior, the west-rim panorama opens to a larger scale. All we do and see in life and nature present at scale.
Too few people notice the dimensions that add vibrancy to life, living, and enterprise. There are those who can’t see the forest for the trees. Sadly, there are those, too, who see neither the forest or the trees. I look hard, seeking to see in multiple dimensions, yet I fear I am missing far too much. Better to be the miserable wretch who sees nothing beyond the digital… unaware of the rich palette unseen? No, I much prefer seeing a bit of something, rather than all of nothing.
Opening Our Eyes
Today (12/10), I drove Judy to the Pittsburgh airport, some 90 miles north, and returned to Fairmont. A quarter inch of snow dusted the ground last night, adding a hint of deeper, impending winter to the now dormant landscape. I thought, how gloomy, yet quickly dismissed that too-easy trap of negativity. Instead, I relished that my view at 70 mph now opened into the roadside forests. No longer simply a wall of green, the denuded trees and shrubs permitted deep looks at the forest floor and countless stems and trunks. Three full dimensions where during the growing season only two appeared to us.
It’s so easy to be blind to the world around us. Great Blue Heron borrows nature’s lessons, and instructs how to learn and apply them. Nature’s Wisdom and Power enrich my life. Great Blue Heron can help you harness Nature’s Power and Wisdom… in service to your life and enterprise. I am grateful for far more than most people dare to dream.
Life is rich and good. Nature informs, enriches, and inspires!