Mountains and Mosses

Nalini Nadkarni


Trees and mountains are symbols of stability and endurance. Just as mountain peaks persist over evolutionary time, so do trees outlast human lifetimes. The word “tree” comes from the Sanskrit root word deru, which means to be firm or solid. The words en dure, shelter, truce, and true are also derived from deru. Although they exemplify constancy, both mountains and trees are subject to disturbances that can wreck dramatic changes in their form and in the complement of organisms with which they are associated. A volcanic eruption is a dynamic force that has tremendous effects on the trees that populate the mountain’s flanks, as can be seen in the legions of fallen trunks and broken crowns still visible twenty - fire years after the explosion of Mount St. Helens.

After our foray was over, I reflected on the interwoven facts and feelings that came from examining destruction and recovery of the mountain. I recognized that the emotional connections forged by my physical intimacy to the dead trees, coupled with the evocative voices of the poets and the scientific background we were given, were strong forces in wakening my awareness of how trees and I are linked. Understanding and successfully communicating the importance of the links between nature and humans may lie in merging the complementary forces of science and poetry.

From In the Blast Zone, pages 70 & 76. (OSU Press, 2008)

Full Publication from Oregon State University Press