Wednesday, July 25, 2018

The turning of the leaves: Ohio buckeyes

The changing climate affects our forests in many ways. One particular effect that I've been following now for about 25 years, is the seasonal color change that affects most of the deciduous trees in our central Appalachian forest.  In particular I've been interested in the Ohio Buckeye, a tree that turns a brilliant pumpkin orange in fall - or at least it used to be autumn.

July 5, 2013
When I first moved to central Appalachia (living in Wise, VA), the Ohio Buckeye changed color at the beginning of the normal autumn season in late September or early October. Between 1989 and 2005 I observed the Ohio Buckeye beginning to show it's brilliant color earlier and earlier. The first time I wrote about this in a different blog in September of 2005, the first signs of color appeared in early August. I wrote about it again in 2013 noting that the Ohio Buckeye color change had shifted even earlier to the first week in July and included a photograph showing the beginnings of color change. 

June 14, 2018
This year first signs of color in the Ohio Buckeye appeared in mid-June, which I noted while attending a week-long watercolor class at Cowan Community Center.  

I have been unable to find anyone who knows why the Ohio Buckeye would be shifting to increasingly earlier displays of seasonal color. It is particularly puzzling since most of the other trees in the region are developing and holding color later in the autumn due to warmer temperatures. Last autumn (2017) we saw one of the latest peak-color dates ever recorded in the region, with the most brilliant color occurring here in late October into early November.

July 23, 2018
This week I caught a picture of at least one Ohio buckeye (at the left of the picture) in our neighborhood that was nearly in full color even though July is not yet over.  You can see two other Buckeye trees that have substantial color, but that none of the other trees in the forest are showing any sign of color - as one would expect in July. 

One day I really hope that I encounter a botanist or naturalist who can explain to me what is happening to the Ohio buckeye. 
Ohio Buckeye July 15, 2017, Whitesburg

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

mind of the universe

It came to me in the early morning hours as I lie there trying to decide whether to go back to sleep or to get up, that it was an enormous human conceit not to believe in god* or at least not to believe in the existence of a mind/an intelligence greater than our own encompassing the universe. Moreover, that it is a western human conceit to believe that foraging humans like the Mbuti (pygmies) are wrong when they believe in the Forest as a living entity with mind/consciousness to whom they give thanks and offer prayer. 

We rational, scientific, folks of industrial societies don’t actually know why we ourselves have a mind (as opposed to just a brain), so how can we discount the idea that other organized systems (bees, dolphins, forests, planets, universes) composed of organic and inorganic materials just as we are, could not also produce minds and thought. 

Since we aren’t particularly good at understanding other human beings, why should we expect to understand the working of the mind of the universe/god? 

*this is not to imply that any particular human conception of god is necessarily correct.
Color view of M31 (The Andromeda Galaxy), with M32 (a satellite galaxy) shown to the lower left. Credit and copyright: Terry Hancock.