Lit: The World Without Us

by Andrew Keys on April 16, 2010

Today, I’m celebrating Arbor Day with tree-related ceremonies at two schools in town. A passage for our friends the trees seemed apropos.

Puszcza, an old Polish word, means ‘forest primeval.’ Straddling the border between Poland and Belarus, the half-million acres of the Białowieża Puszcza contain Europe’s last remaining fragment of old-growth, lowland wilderness. Think of the misty, brooding forest that loomed behind your eyelids when, as a child, someone read you the Grimm Brothers’ fairy tales. Here, ash and linden trees tower nearly 150 feet, their huge canopies shading a moist, tangles understory of hornbeams, ferns, swamp alders and crockery-sized fungi. Oaks, shrouded with half a millennium of moss, grow so immense here that great spotted woodpeckers store spruce cones in their three-inch-deep bark furrows. The air, thick and cool, is draped with silence that parts briefly for a nutcracker’s croak, a pygmy owl’s low whistle, or a wolf’s wail, then returns to stillness.

– Alan Weisman, The World Without Us.

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