Copper River Record January 2015
By Janelle Eklund
Before sun showed its face on a winter morning, light from the orb bathed the sky announcing its arrival on pink hued slivers of clouds hanging out on the horizon. The closer it came to rising the more intense the colors. The light arced across the pale blue sky and settled on steel blue clouds on the opposite horizon, marrying pink with steel blue. As I walked down the Old Edgerton this spectacular phenomenon made its entrance in silence. No drum rolls, no dynamic symphony with flutes and violins and harps. But wait, there was an awakening of sounds that seemed to welcome the birth of a new and glorious day. Now and then the slowly rising sun seemed to be greeted by chickadees with their occasional 'chickadee-dee-dee' as they sat on frost laden aspen branch, a distant raven giving a single 'caw', and chatter from squirrel observing from frosty spruce tree. In between the greetings I stopped to listen to see what else I could hear. In the very far distance a smooth rushing sound laid below the silence. My imagination saw and heard the mighty Copper River on its journey to the sea, carrying chunks of its own frozen self rolling and tumbling with its perpetual current.
As I read, listen, and observe, more sounds resound from some of the most enlightening places - like plants. While visiting my sisters in Oregon last July an elder told us she could hear the plants talking. She was out walking past hop fields when she stopped to listen and could hear water being taken up by the long stems of the plants. She said they were having quite the conversation with all the gurgling going on throughout the big field. After we heard the story my sister and I were walking by a field of wheat. The very dry looking wheat stood stark still in the hot sunny windless day. We stopped to listen and to our surprise the wheat was crackling and popping as it continued to dry under the warmth of the sun.
In Robin Wall Kimmerer's book, Braiding Sweetgrass, she says: "I could spend a whole day listening. And a whole night. And in the morning, without my hearing it, there might be a mushroom that was not there the night before, creamy white, pushed up from the pine needle duff, out of darkness to light, still glistening with the fluid of its passage. Listening in wild places, we are audience to conversations in a language not our own." Last summer's rains urged many mushrooms to explode from the ground, as I saw new ones each day on my walk. In the night I missed the silence of their awakening.
Plants make sounds as they grow and change into their different stages."But (as Robin Wall Kimmerer says) plants speak in a tongue that every breathing thing can understand. Plants teach in a universal language: food." Listening to the sounds plants impart is the rushing sound of their need for a healthy home critical for their survival, which we depend on. Think about it. No matter where we are we are surrounded by plants. We eat them, we use them for medicine, we build homes with them, we use them for heat, and they give us inspiration. We would not be here without them. If we give them thanks and respect their health, they will keep reciprocating by giving us life.
From my light to yours-
Who We Are
WISEfriends are several writers connected with Wrangell Institute for Science and Environment, a nonprofit organization located in Alaska's Copper River Valley. Most of these articles originally appeared in our local newspaper, the Copper River Record.