5 Apocalypses and counting…

My apologies to the Paleontology bros. I thought you were boys that wanted to play with dinosaur bones and never grow up. Maybe that’s true for some, but like most things, it’s a broadly overstated stereotype. I had no idea how interesting and diversified paleontology could be until I read The Ends of the World: Volcanic Apocalypses, Lethal Oceans, and Our Quest to Understand Earth’s Past Mass Extinctions By Peter Brannen. I came about reading this book because I’m a connoisseur of Apocalypses; personal, local, regional, global. I pick them apart and study the bones. Why does one species suffer an Extinction Level Event (ELE) while others adapt and survive?

On a personal level this boils down to the difference between surviving and eventually thriving beyond a catastrophic event or stepping off the ledge. What’s defined as a “catastrophic event” depends on the person. One person’s chaos is another person’s status quo. How do you survive, psychologically? Through resilience. How do you become resilient? By changing your perspective. How do you change your perspective? Through education and observation. What is the reward? Adaptability. Adaptability encourages resourcefulness which increases your survivability…in a nutshell.

You can take that last paragraph and replace person with society, business, or organization.

What I like about Peter Brannen’s book is that it lays out what the earth endured long before humans ever walked upon it. We weren’t even a speck on the geological timeline of anything resembling Homo Sapiens! Dinosaurs, three Extinction Level Events, but it was the last one that eventually did them in. When we think of the dinosaur’s extinction we think; “Oh, an asteroid hit the earth and boom! The dinosaurs instantly died.” This doesn’t appear to be the case though. Neither dinosaurs nor their food sources were completely obliterated during the event. Some survived, but over time their numbers could not be replenished and eventually they did die out. We know this because some fossils have been found indicating that the dinosaur died 700,000 years after that event.

Can you guess what animal is alive today that some dinosaurs used to eat as a source of food? Sharks! Crazy right!?!?! The shark was known as Carcharocles megalodon and is the very enormous ancestor to the great white shark. I’ve changed my mind, paleontology is actually pretty cool. I’ve always had a soft spot for the Saber-Toothed Tiger and that’s part of paleontology too, because the definition is simply “the study of fossils.”

I’ve been educating myself about plants, particularly Pacific Northwest native plants, over the last several years, so it was really interesting to read about the importance of paleobotany in Mr. Brannen’s book. I’ve always loved ferns and mosses. To me, they are the embellishments of what makes a stand of trees a forest. There is nothing more magical to me than having my eyes greeted by long green corridors carpeted in mosses and masses of ferns.

I hope you’ll give this easy-to-read science book a try. It felt effortless the way he weaved the present and past. I’ve read through a lot of dry science book out of a sense of duty, but this one I read for fun. I borrowed it from the library and loved it so much I bought a copy. I only do this with less than 3% of the books I borrow in a year. Another book that made the list was Rule Makers, Rule Breakers: How Tight and Loose Cultures Wire Our World By Michele Gelfand who’s a cultural psychologist. (Another cool subbranch of something I didn’t know I wanted to be when I grew up!) Her analysis helps us understand how different personalities and cultures adapt to the world around them.

There’s no wrong or right way in learning how to adapt to an ever-changing world, only variances in approach.


Books:

The Ends of the World: Volcanic Apocalypses, Lethal Oceans, and Our Quest to Understand Earth’s Past Mass Extinctions By Peter Brannen (2017)

Rule Makers, Rule Breakers: How Tight and Loose Cultures Wire Our World By Michele Gelfand (2018)

Interesting Links:

Test shows dinosaurs survived mass extinction by 700,000 years (phys.org) 

Living Creatures That Walked Among The Dinosaurs – WorldAtlas

The Megalodon | Smithsonian Ocean (si.edu)

About Ferns — American Fern Society (amerfernsoc.org)

“from her heart grows a tree”

Are you ready to participate in an experiment?

I’m currently reading The Book of Trees: Visualizing Branches of Knowledge By Manuel Lima

While reading it a phrase popped in my head, “from her heart grows a tree”

I did a search of the phrase and there were 0 search results. How often does that happen!?!?! With all the data we have put out here on the internet, the search engine couldn’t even offer a guess!

So let’s play.

With this blog post I have created the “trunk”

Now its your turn to add a branch. On your own blog use the phrase including the quotations:

“from her heart grows a tree”

Let’s see how many branches we can get by this time next week.

And so, from my heart grows a tree.

Melanie Reynolds

Original source code retrieval: Ref A: 2A398833CE0A4E2BAF9AFDD723E49412 Ref B: STBEDGE0208 Ref C: 2021-07-28T03:10:42Z


Update: July 29, 2021 4:32pm (PST)

The Book of Trees

DEADLINE TO PARTICIPATE: AUGUST 2, 2021 Midnight (PST)

“Branches”: A post on your website/blog anything that includes “from her heart grows a tree” (A poem, a short story, a couple of sentences, a picture with the phrase as the title….)

“Roots”: Post your contribution in the comments below. For anyone who wants to participate that doesn’t have a blog or doesn’t feel like posting it on their blog.

Why is there a deadline?

So I can make a visual tree(s) of your contributions. Depending on how much input I have to work with I might make one fancy tree or a few experimental trees. I go with the flow with where ever the inspiration takes me!

I will *try* to have the project done the following week (Aug 9th-13th) for you all, see note below.

Note: I’ve been notified of potential Jury Duty. I should know if I’m selected as a potential Juror on Aug 2nd. If I’m selected I’ll have a civil and legal obligation to participate which could take up to two weeks or longer depending on the court case. If selected, I won’t be able to talk about it. I don’t yet know what the time commitment is like or how it will impact my schedule, but August was already stacking up to be a very busy month. We’ll see how it goes.

Firestorm, 1991

When I was sixteen my father and I nearly died in a wildfire.

When I was four, he bought twenty-seven acres outside of town. At night, in a field among the forests, it felt like space could devour you. Very few lights dotted the landscape back then. Now when I go back there are so many lights I can hardly see the stars.

We started in a used single wide trailer. Two years later the concrete was poured and the first timbers went up. My dad worked long hours at a meat packing plant with a 45-mintue commute. I lived in the city with my mom during the week. On the weekends, I was a wild child out at my dad’s house. He bartered and traded for goods and services to get the house built. Family and friends came out to help with whatever skills they could bring to the effort. It created a festive atmosphere having so many people around. My grandpa, my great grandpa, my grandmother, my great aunt and uncle, some family friends and occasionally my childhood friend and her parents too. I loved growing up “under construction.” When the scaffolding went up three stories high, I turned into a monkey. When my grandma would give me food I would stuff it in my pockets or have a sandwich hanging out of my mouth as I scurried up to the highest scaffolding board to eat. I also liked throwing carrot chunks at my older brother, because he was too afraid to climb so high.

One of my favorite family friends was a survivor of Auschwitz. He lost his whole family including a wife. He remarried a fellow survivor after they were freed. That’s all I know of his story. He was a kind, soft-spoken man, and an excellent master bricklayer, just like my great grandfather. Every time I see the bricks in “soldier pattern” (standing vertical) over the main doorway, I think of him. The rest of the house was built of wood.

The house grew and now it’s very large. You might consider it a mansion, one that took nearly forty years to build. Wildfires have come and gone over the years, but they never come close enough for us to really worry, until 1991. What would become locally known as, “Firestorm 1991.” It’s a lot like what the Bootleg fire in Oregon appears to be becoming now, multiple fires driven by high winds.

We got blocked on three sides, one of them curving like a half moon that eventually cutoff our escape route. My Stepmom, Stepsister, and Stepbrother got out in time. My stepsiblings were just little kids at the time. My stepsister cried, begging us to come too. I wanted to go, but I wouldn’t without my dad. I thought if I stayed with him, he would see reason. I thought I could get him to go, for me. By the time I felt I had convinced him it; it was too late to leave. The firefighters had come. They told us to evacuate. They themselves were pulling out and right after they left trees fell as if closing a door behind them.

I filled the bathtub with water, so I felt like I had a choice between burning or drowning. I was angry and sad that we hadn’t left with the rest of the family, but I understood too. I knew how much the house means to my dad. How much it means to me. Many beloved hands shaped the walls, drove the nails, and mudded the cracks in the sheetrock. When I visit, I run my hands along the walls. Hierth, you can never go home.

The night was long. The glow of the fire was so bright when you closed your eyes, you still saw the fire through your eyelids. There was nowhere to hide. We paced around like angry cats. We patrolled the windows as they started turning black with soot. The hose and buckets positioned by the doors. Our water was drawn by a well and the closest fire was nearly upon the pump house. Then the fire turned and battled the other for fuel. They consumed each other before us. There was not enough tinder between the both of them and they burned each other out. I would have cried if I’d had enough moisture left for tears. I thought I might cry table salt instead; my eyes were so crusty.

We survived. The house still stands today. The wood exterior has been covered with stone. The roof has been replaced with tiles. I still can’t help but think of it as a giant brick oven though. I can’t live out there no more. Every year I worry about my dad. Every year I track the fires. I live roughly five hours away, but if I move like a low flying aircraft and I don’t stop to pee, I can make it in three.

I don’t just follow “our fires,” I track everyone’s fires. My own version of Nihilism perhaps, but I also think Fire Science is interesting. Sometimes, I cry tears for others I couldn’t cry for myself. I know their pain. Most recently it was for the people of Lytton, BC.

The problem isn’t just one thing, it’s a multitude of things. Yes, it’s more people moving out to rural areas. Yes, it’s years of suppressing natural fires. It’s over regulated in some ways and under regulated in other ways. It’s bad planning. It’s greed. It’s global warming.

We could be more strategic in how we manage fires and how we plan our communities. The Camp Fire in California in 2018 showed just how dangerous one of our most popular housing development layouts can be. It’s typically a selling feature to live on a dead end street, until you can’t escape in an emergency due to you and your neighbors trying to flee at once creating a chokehold. We have to rebalance and recalibrate, the natural environment with the built environment. We can save ourselves, save the trees, and animal lives with lower intensity fires. Fire isn’t always bad. Regenerative fires help create lower intensity fires and healthier forests and fields for future generations.

Additional Links:

Firestorm 1991 – Aug. 21, 2015 | The Spokesman-Review

‘Most homes’ in Lytton, B.C., destroyed by catastrophic fire, minister says | CBC News (This link includes a video of a guy who describes just how hard it is to make the decision whether to leave or stay during a wildfire. This fire occurred earlier this month at the beginning of July 2021.)

Have you ever been affected by wildfire?