December 22nd, 2004

The Forester's Tale

I have a dear friend, a forester from Alabama, named Charles Tomlinson.  I learned today that is health, which has not been good for a while, was failing. It was sad news for me.

Charles has a fascinating gift for language, plainspoken, humorous, and incisive.  Here is the beginning of his essay on the success of the forests of the American South:

"I have been distracted for the last few years by other matters and have just recently returned to my world of natural resource management to discover that the major happening in at least the last two decades has slipped by without notice."

You see how that sneaked up on you, and then grabbed your attention?  He has a knack for that.  Here's the 2nd-to-last  paragraph of the same essay:

"We all like things to be neat and tidy, so our response to chaos is usually to try to fix it-to bring order to the chaos. But it has been discovered, for example, that the beating of our heart is a chaotic system and does not respond well to efforts to make it neat and tidy. It seems that systems that need to be agile and efficient (in case one encounters a saber tooth tiger) must be unstable and chaotic. I suggest that the heartbeat of our economic system is similar and fixing it, making it neat and tidy, is not the best way to make it work."

He insidiously begins by acknowledging the naturalness of the desire to make things tidy, and then he clobbers you with the heart metaphor, which suggests (without spelling it out) that this is a life or death matter and you had better resist the urge to "tidy" up the free economy!  I love his style.

I highly recommend his little (good stocking stuffer) book,  A View From My Stump.  I did not love that title, when first I heard it, but after reading the book I thought it a fine title indeed.  It's about the environment, life, history, and a little bit of everything else.  I would quote from it - but I can't find my copy at the moment!

Rhyme of the Day:

A tall tree falls.
The ground shakes
With the sound
That it makes.