landscape architecture

Trees take care of each other. So should humans

I was up early yesterday and went to Granville Island while the market was still waking up. People were setting up booths and others, like me, were killing time until stuff opened. Walking around I kept thinking I hope you have a good day and your business does well. Not in some fluffy insincere way but in a way that is painful and connected and empathetic. I wanted these people to be okay, to do well.

I couldn’t help but think about how different our world would be if this was how we thought about things. Take care of each other so we can all do well and have decent lives. Don’t we all want everyone to be okay or has the individualism of capitalism crushed that from most of us?

Typing up quotes from The Secret Life of Trees I basically only underlined stuff about how trees help each other. Like humans they are social and live in communities. They take care of each other. And so should we.

Scientists in the Harz mountains in Germany have discovered that this really is a case of interdependence, and most individual trees of the same species growing in the same stand are connected to each other through their root system. It appears that nutrient exchange and helping neighbours in times of need is the rule.
There are advantages to working together. A tree is not a forest. On its own, a tree cannont establish a consistent local climate. It is at the mercy of wind and weather. But together, many trees create and ecosystem that moderates extremes of heat and cold, stores a great deal of water, and generates a great deal of humidity. And in this protected environment, trees can live to be very old. To get to this point, the community must remain intact no matter what. If every tree was looking out only for itself, then quite a few of them would never reach old age.
Every tree, therefor, is valuable to the community and worth keeping around for as long as possible. And that is why even sick individuals are supported and nourished until they recover.
Whoever has an abundance of sugar hands some over; whoever is running short gets some help.
When trees grow together, nutrients and water can be optimally divided among them all so that each tree can grow into the best tree it can be.
A tree can only be as strong as the forest that surrounds it.
Their well-being depends on their community, and when the supposedly feeble trees disappear, the others lose as well.
Even strong trees get sick a lot over the course of their lives.
And because they know this intiuitively, they do not hesitate to help each other out.
One final limitation is an organism’s own genestics: an organism that is too greedy and takes too much without giving anything in return destroys what it needs for life and dies out.
Species that live in social groups don’t entertain this option because every individual belongs to a community that will look after it in times of need, warn it of impending dangers and feed it if it is sick or in distress.

Shibuya again

Here I sit in Shibuya not far from where I went at the beginning of this trip. I have crossed that crossing amongst the masses myriad times. I have yet to be robbed.

The main thing I misplaced was hostel keys. This is unsurprising.

I packed the wrong things. I was awkward at times. I have been tired, as ever reminded that my body is not as it once was and that it’s limits are always there awaiting me, reminding me that I am finite and fragile.

I worry about how I am going to travel in the future, but overall I feel good. As good as I can possibly hope for.

That anxiety and fear is gone. I am safe, this is nice, I am enjoying it. I settle into things.

I also have nothing much to steal. Enough to buy a 7/11 dinner and transit fare to the airport.

The main thing to worry about now is my flight. I check the time over and over in the hope that the triplicate events in my phone (generated by some sort of email thing not me) are in fact real and right, that I am not as ever messing up and getting the details wrong. Something to work on. Trusting myself, trusting that things will work out, that I can be safe and okay.

I am content. I am here in this moment. Savouring what remains.

Anxieties about my anxiety chair

We are doing emotion chairs in Grasshopper and I was feeling a bit anxious about whether or not the geometry in the group file would work. It totally did.

I am unfailingly impressed by how I have yet to have a slacker/useless group member. The folks at SALA are all on it. To get through any of these programs you have to have it together and do your work (says girl who achieved very little grading today).

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Cumbersome outdoor laptops

If there's one thing in the world that makes me crazy it's leaving my house with my laptop. It's weird and doesn't make sense but I really hate taking it with me when I'm doing stuff. I don't even really like walking a few blocks to a cafe with it.

Now that I have the stand and the keyboard and the mouse and am trying hard to take care of my back and shoulders and neck better it is even more cumbersome. There's a lot of stuff.

I am at a cafe, going out into the world, because it's nice to leave home and be near other humans. I also know that at times I need to take my laptop outside. And by at times I mean every day for the next three years. I know it's going to bug me and that I need to get better at dealing with that.

Eclipse watching

The Eclipse that some people have long awaited and I heard about a few weeks ago happened today. It was pretty cool, although probably way cooler down in totality. The partial eclipse was neat but not really the same.

It seemed that the people who were crying and deeply moved all got the full on eclipse experience, and well I felt a little bit bummed out that I didn't. I felt left out from the coolness. I wish I'd hoped in the SUV and headed to Idaho or that I'd been in Oregon. Next time.

Fortunately I get to say next time. Come hell or high water I'm planning on hitting up the totality zone in 2024. It seems like an amazing experience and I want to have it. Just have to stay alive until then. If I do live long enough an eclipse will be headed over Alberta this century so that's something to look forward to — that's 2044. I doubt I'll be around for the one in 2099 but that will hit up Canada.

My mother is a huge nerd so she ordered eclipse glasses early. It was great having that taken care of knowing that they were probably not fakes. She used to take us out to do astronomy things as kids and I'd be tired and bored. She never converted us.

Today I went up to Nose Hill because I wanted a view to the south. It's close and high and it was a great pick. I don't go there enough even though it's so close. It was pretty quiet when I got there. I was worried I wouldn't be able to get a spot in the parking lot but that wasn't an issue. The Internet said things would start around 10:20 so I got there for then. I could see it start bit by bit. It was neat but also left quite a bit of time for reading while I waited for things to move.

By 11:00 more people were showing up and it was getting closer and closer to the maximum eclipse we'd get. It was fun chatting with people. There was a mother with two young daughters. They had a pinhole type setup. I offered my glasses, they took a look and then ran back down the hill. I joked that they weren't patient enough for astronomy. I certainly never was. I still don't think I am.

There were dog walkers and joggers. A mother and daughter who hung around for the peak.

It was nice chatting with people. It would've been fun to go to one of the parties that was happening or to hit the U of C.

After the peak had passed I headed home. I watched a few of the live streams on Twitter. It was then that I started to feel like this really big thing had happened for people and sadly I hadn't been there for it. I'd kind of been there but not in the place where it was really happening. It was cool to see how intensely people responded to it, the clapping, the cheering, the way the NASA commentators talked about it. The young scientists really understanding why what they do is cool.

Social media, as it can be when it's good, was lit up with moving and beautiful posts. People were in awe of the wonder of the world and it's beauty. Science isn't that much different from art after all.

Maybe if we can appreciate how cool it is that we live on this place that keeps us alive and has all these rare combinations happening then we might want to protect that beauty. I get that jobs matter but so does beauty and wonder. If we destroy beauty and wonder what's the point of any of the rest of it? Why bother being alive?

How can we build a world where we maximize beauty and wonder as a precondition for all decisions? How can we remember that we're a part of nature and that we need it?

Later I was reading an article in Monocle where they interviewed a prominent American landscape architect. He talks about connectivity — connecting with each other, with the places we live, with nature and getting where we need to go. It's a great idea. I think a good philosophy for cities is connection and sustainability. That should be at the heart of our world. Connecting with people like the mother and daughter, with this planet, with wonder and beauty. Taking care of this place we live in, having just enough and not more, taking up only the space we need, being a part of nature instead of destroying nature.

Take that sense of wonder and awe. Build a connected and sustainable society. Remember that this world is fantastic and beautiful. It's worth taking care of.