Seeing the Forest Anew

Accounts of times in which someone has had a spiritual momment or felt they were communing or were one with nature. Experiences that elicited a strong emotional response or moment of gestalt.

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dbhguru
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Seeing the Forest Anew

Post by dbhguru » Sat Mar 27, 2010 1:28 pm

ENTS,

I have edited this initial post by Bob Leverett to emphasize his comment about seeing the forest in a different way. The entire post is present in Trip Reports and Site Descriptions - Eastern United States and Canada - Massachusetts - Mohawk Trail State Forest - A Job Nearly Completed http://www.ents-bbs.org/viewtopic.php?f=87&t=365

Edward Frank


ENTS

This past week witnessed a blitz of tree measuring from yours truly. I was determined to fulfill a self-appointed mission. On Monday and Tuesday, Monica and I stayed at Cabin #6 in Mohawk Trail State Forest, which allowed me to complete my goal of relocated and measuring all 150-foot white pines in the Pocumtuck Grove of Mohawk Trail State Forest as part of the greater mission of confirming all 150s in Mohawk. After each visit to the Pocumtuck Grove, I kept thinking I had completed the mission, but then doubts would set in. Why? Because the tightly packed grove is a bear to measure. It tests every measuring skill that I have developed over the years and points to gaps in our tree measuring methodology where trees grow very close together. Most trees in tight clumps don't get measured.

On Monday, I started out looking at the Pocumtuck Grove basically through the same eyes, i.e. to say with the same set of mental filters operating. This means that I had conditioned myself to see the trees in the Pocumtucks through past mental imprints that reinforced for me which I thought were the tallest. However, on this visit something moved me to climb a hill and examine the grove from an entirely new perspective and at a significantly greater distance. From my new position, I could not see the bases of the trees, but I could see some of the crowns better. One tree stood out. It appeared much taller than my perception of it from the road below. It wasn't a new tree, just a new perspective. I went down to the tree and put an orange marker on it at 6.7 feet above its base. I then went back to my distant perch and shot to the crown and the orange marker. After doing the calculations and adding 6.7 feet, I got a little over 157 feet. Wow! This was 5 feet above my last measurement. I then realized that from my closer perches, I simply was missing the tops of some of the trees.

To shorten the story about my long and labored effort that lasted the rest of the day, I eventually confirmed eight more 150s! I felt simultaneously elated and embarrassed and the tallest tree in the grove turned out to be a 158.6 feet. How could old Dbhguru have missed eight of the sixteen 150s for so long? That will be the subject of future emails, but it happened. I confess.

Well, after a wild Monday, on Tuesday I set about measuring pines across the road and uphill, trees that I had assumed to be in the high 130s to low 140s, because of a couple of measurements of trees near the edge of the road and some untested assumptions. Before I was finished, I had confirmed trees to the heights of 152.9, 148.1, 145.0, and 143.8 feet. Here again, I had been applying a faulty mental filter and had to find a way to see the stand through new eyes. It is close to a Zen thing, I guess. So, by Tuesday's end, i had confirmed 9 new 150s in mohawk, bring the count to 104. Was I finished? Nope.

Yesterday Monica and I returned to Mohawk and I settled the question about a former 150 in the Cherokee-Choctaw Grove. It is officially a former 150, i.e. o longer part of the club. That brings the total number of 150s in Mohawk to 103, prior to the growing season. Actually, I have one last tree to visit - the Oneida Pine. It has been part of the 150-Club for years, but I haven't remeasured it. So, if it fails, the number will be 102. Either 103 or 102, it is a much higher number than I had been projecting. I had thought we would go into this growing season with at most 95 pines in the 150-Club. I expect that we'll exit this growing season with 112 150s. Maybe more.

Bob Leverett
Robert T. Leverett
Co-founder, Native Native Tree Society
Co-founder and President
Friends of Mohawk Trail State Forest
Co-founder, National Cadre

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edfrank
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Re: A job nearly completed

Post by edfrank » Sat Mar 27, 2010 4:59 pm

Bob,

Congratulations on the new finds and of learning to see with a fresh eye the trees that you have visited many times before. With the threat of MTSF reaching 112 trees, I guess Dale Luthringer and the other western PA ENTS will need to re-evaluate the groves in Cook Forest State Park to keep you firmly in second place. I hope you will expand on you ideas of seeing the same trees with a fresh eye.

It sounds like much the same circumstances when a visitor will find a large tree amongst the masses when they explore a well documented site. The person who has most measured the site has become comfortable with what they are seeing. Another example is the difficulty I have and most people have of proofing their own writing. The author knows what it is supposed to say and reads that even if those are not the actual words written on the page. The idea warrants further discussion. Good Luck.

Ed
"I love science and it pains me to think that so many are terrified of the subject or feel that choosing science means you cannot also choose compassion, or the arts, or be awe by nature. Science is not meant to cure us of mystery, but to reinvent and revigorate it." by Robert M. Sapolsky

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dbhguru
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Re: A job nearly completed

Post by dbhguru » Sat Mar 27, 2010 6:39 pm

ED,

I'm putting together my thoughts on seeing a site with new eyes or a fresh perspective. We'll see how well I can explain what happned.

Bob
Robert T. Leverett
Co-founder, Native Native Tree Society
Co-founder and President
Friends of Mohawk Trail State Forest
Co-founder, National Cadre

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edfrank
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Re: A job nearly completed

Post by edfrank » Sat Mar 27, 2010 7:09 pm

Bob,

To cotinue this conversation I want to reprint a portion of a post you made in 2002 - on seeing the forest with an attitude:
http://www.nativetreesociety.org/thread ... attitu.htm

Well, if the Smokies have so many great trees, and they do, then why do some otherwise experienced people not see them as special? I think it stems from what I've started to call seeing the forest with an attitude. Here is an example. When the late Dr. Michael Perlman was collecting material for his book "The Power of Trees", he interviewed a logger from one of the Carolinas - I forget which. The logger spoke freely since he understood Mike to be a psychologist only. In the conversation Mike asked the logger what he thought of the Smokies. The logger frowned and stated that the Smokies wasn't a healthy forest and consisted of only one kind (species) of tree. Now Park naturalists have catalogued 131 species of trees in the GSMNP including some exotics. Our logger friend seems to have failed to have noticed a mere 130 different species. A woodsman making such a mistake? What is the explanation? The logger saw the Smokies through an attitude. Of course, he probably did recognize more than one species of tree in the Smokies, but symbolically he acknowledged only one. He blanked the incredible diversity of the Smokies out of his mind. He wanted to see the Smokies as a waste, so he conjured up an appropriate image and verbal description to match.

Though not so blatant, others with varying backgrounds as timber specialists have made puzzling observations about the Smokies. Each has his/her reasons for diminishing those incredible woodlands. But all see the Smoky Mountain forests with an attitude. There is no shortage of examples applicable to other regions. Some of the timber managers of Pennsylvania see Cook Forest State Park with an attitude - meaning they don't recognize the exemplary stature of the trees relative to other PA sites.

I'd be hypocritical if I didn't admit to having seen trees and forests with an attitude. I now find outstanding Sycamores, Silver Maples, and Cottonwoods in the Connecticut River Valley. Jani and I returned from Arcadia Wildlife Sanctuary a short time ago. I found a Cottonwood right on the side of a road that proved to be 94.5 feet tall and 14.1 feet around. A 14-foot Cottonwood is no mean tree. The number of the three species just mentioned in the Valley that exceed 12 feet in circumference grows steadily. WEll, why hadn't I seen them before? My eyes had, but my brain repackaged the images to fit a perception - a negative one. I was seeing the trees with an attitude, which means I wasn't seeing them at all. I was seeing a mental reconstruction to fit a perception.

So how does seeing with an attitude relate to tree measuring, i.e. the latter being a cure for the former. The collection of measurements and their presentation via a host of lists eventually penetrates the attitude and opens up the mind to more realistic assessements. Thus one is less likely to proclaim a mediocre woodland as exemplary and vice versa.

As another possible example of seeing with an attitude, I turn to our friend Lou Sebesta. Here is a quote from recent Lou's e-mail. "Yesterday I and a couple of my fellow state foresters and the local forest ranger did a recon. of the state's newly acquired "Witch's Hole" lands (approx. 500 ac. or so in the ridge-strewn highlands south east of the Catskill Mtns.) which includes deep gorges w/ streams and waterfalls, rocky ridges, etc. Hiking at times was an ordeal and hot, but well worth it. We came upon a big old, battle worn yellow birch in the gorge just beneath a 50-60' waterfall that I'd conservatively
estimate at ~ 500 to 600 years old. Such incredibly shaggy bark that the other foresters were baffled to ID the species. "
So the other 3 foresters were unable to ID the species. New York state foresters unable to identify Yellow Birch, even if very old? I encountered the same from a past president of the Mass Forestry Association. Perhaps all had trained themselves over the years to tune out the oldest trees in a forest, seeing and valuing only youth. If so, they were seeing the forest with an attitude, though not necessarily an intentionally negative one toward old growth treated as a class of forest. That certainly was the case with the past president of MFA. he valued the old growth I was showing him.

When we look at forest through the eyes of the artist, the scientist, the forester, the arborist, the mystic, we pick up different aspects of the multi-dimensional life forms that we call trees. To see trees as mere numbers is to dishonor them, but seeing them with the information that numbers can communicate can keep us from making ourselves look pretty silly at times. Viva la tree numbers. May the great Silver Maples, Cottonwoods, and Sycamores that I keep finding in the Connecticut River Valley, now that the blinders are off, live long and prosper. - Bob


The other consdieration that should be mentioned here is regarding taking a novice, someone unfamiliar with the forest, or a child to see it for the first time. It allows you to revisit your first encounters with some of these aspects of the trees and forest that have long since passd into the "not noticed" category. You rediscover things that yo have not paid any attention to in years. Big tree people commonly walk past exemplary specimens of small species without ever seeing them. I think in many aspects of forest experience, including measurements, that after a time we do not see what is actually there but what we expect to be there. There should be a pair of magic glasses available that allows us to see the forest anew again after we have become comfortable in seeing it is a certain way.

Edward Frank
"I love science and it pains me to think that so many are terrified of the subject or feel that choosing science means you cannot also choose compassion, or the arts, or be awe by nature. Science is not meant to cure us of mystery, but to reinvent and revigorate it." by Robert M. Sapolsky

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James Parton
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Re: Seeing the Forest Anew

Post by James Parton » Sat Mar 27, 2010 8:53 pm

Bob,

I so thoroughly enjoy your adventures and your lessons on measuring are indespensible. If you can still learn new techniques after years of measuring than I know I have so much to learn. I am your willing student.

James
James E Parton
Ovate Course Graduate - Druid Student
Bardic Mentor
New Order of Druids

http://www.druidcircle.org/nod/index.ph ... Itemid=145

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dbhguru
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Re: Seeing the Forest Anew

Post by dbhguru » Mon Mar 29, 2010 1:42 pm

Ed, James, et al.,

Since those original writings on the topic of seeing the forest with an attitude, I periodically revisit the topic. How am I now “seeing the forests and the trees”. I, no different from others, can view the forest through restrictive lenses. I can become insensitive to features that initially attracted my eye. But I would not have imagined myself losing focus when mentally calibrating tree dimensions – a specialty of all accomplished tree-measuring Ents. So, it is with renewed humility that I approach the topic of my forest sensitivity index.

As I frequently explain in emails, I have set for myself lofty tree and forest measuring goals for Mohawk Trail State Forest. I recently expanded my goals to encompass measuring and compiling data in 9 areas. Some of the areas were fulfilled in the past, but my database is outdated, so some of the work is toward new metrics and others are updates. The 9 areas are:

1. The Rucker Index for Mohawk through at least 12 iterations
2. The 10 tallest members of each major tree species
3. The 10 largest members of each major tree species
4. A listing of all white pines that meet one of the following criteria:
a. Height of 150 feet or more (accomplished)
b. Girth of 10 feet or more
c. Trunk volume of 400 cubic feet or more (nearly complete)
d. Rate of volume accumulation of 10 cubic feet per season or more
5. A listing of all white pine stands with basal areas taken over half acre plots of 150 square feet or more (rate of 300 square feet per acre)
6. A listing of all white ash trees with a height of 140 feet or more (originally completed, but outdated)
7. A listing of all trees irrespective of species with girths of 12 feet or more (nearly complete)
8. A listing of all hardwood trees (except white ash) with a height of 130 feet or more
9. A listing of hardwood-hemlock areas with an average canopy height of over 110 feet

As time goes on, I may add more items, but for the present, the above 9 are enough to keep me busy.

If completing these 9 categories appears daunting, it is. For me to have a chance of compiling the lists, I must be efficient. I must be constantly polishing my skills at assessing the dimensions of trees at a glance and from a distance. I must be able to distinguish features that cause a tree to appear bigger or smaller or taller or shorter than its actual dimensions confirm. So, how does one keep refreshing his/her dimension assessing skills? Where did mine go astray in the Pocumtuck Grove? There is much, much more to come on this topic.

Bob
Robert T. Leverett
Co-founder, Native Native Tree Society
Co-founder and President
Friends of Mohawk Trail State Forest
Co-founder, National Cadre

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