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Between Earth and Sky

Between Earth and Sky: Our Intimate Connections to Trees

Copyright Date: 2008
Edition: 1
Pages: 336
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  • Book Info
    Between Earth and Sky
    Book Description:

    World-renowned canopy biologist Nalini Nadkarni has climbed trees on four continents with scientists, students, artists, clergymen, musicians, activists, loggers, legislators, and Inuits, gathering diverse perspectives. InBetween Earth and Sky,a rich tapestry of personal stories, information, art, and photography, she becomes our captivating guide to the leafy wilderness above our heads. Through her luminous narrative, we embark on a multifaceted exploration of trees that illuminates the profound connections we have with them, the dazzling array of goods and services they provide, and the powerful lessons they hold for us. Nadkarni describes trees' intricate root systems, their highly evolved and still not completely understood canopies, their role in commerce and medicine, their existence in city centers and in extreme habitats of mountaintops and deserts, and their important place in folklore and the arts. She explains tree fundamentals and considers the symbolic role they have assumed in culture and religion. In a book that reawakens our sense of wonder at the fascinating world of trees, we ultimately find entry to the entire natural world and rediscover our own place in it.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-93312-5
    Subjects: Botany & Plant Sciences

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. xi-xii)
  4. Introduction: VIEW FROM THE TOP
    (pp. 1-18)

    Strong brown hands clutched the blue climbing rope, knuckles white. Emil Arnalak, an Inuit born and raised in the tundra of Nunavut, in the far north of Canada, was holding on tight to his lifeline. Above him rose the treetops of a lush coastal forest in Washington State, while my students and I stood six feet below where he dangled. We were teaching Emil how to climb trees so that he could experience the forest canopy, the littleexplored world high above our heads. But this was too strange, and he froze: “Too high! Too high! For me, too high!” he...

  5. Chapter One WHAT IS A TREE?
    (pp. 19-58)

    A person wishing to describe a tree and the environment around it has a deceptively difficult charge.Webster’sdictionary definestreesimply as “a woody perennial plant having a single usually elongate main stem generally with few or no branches on its lower part.” Most of us would point to other basic parts of a tree as being somehow characteristic as well: leaves, bark, roots. Indeed, trees can be as familiar to us as our own bodies. Trees and people are even built on the same general pattern: upright in form, with a crown on top and mobile limbs stemming...

    (pp. 59-87)

    Fanning out through the busy corridors of our town’s shopping mall twenty-five college students in my “Trees and Humans” class set out on an afternoon quest: to find and record any items, besides food, that were lnade from or with the help of trees. Two hours later, they coalesced at the indoor fig tree, a tiny island of nature in this vast ocean of consumer goods, and compared notes. As each student read his or her tally of treederived objects, I wrote them on a large pad of paper. An hour and many pages later, our list encompassed an astonishing...

    (pp. 88-110)

    When I was nine years old, my father designed and built a magnificent tree house in the shape of a boat. It nestled in the airspace between two giant linden trees in our backyard. During its construction, my siblings and I would run home from school to watch the progress being made sixty feet above our heads. Even though its dimensions were only ten by twelve feet, the boat seemed not a cubit smaller than Noah’s Ark. When it was completed, we had the most wonderful place to spend the night, complete with a wooden figurehead in the intended shape...

  8. Chapter Four HEALTH AND HEALING
    (pp. 111-134)

    I heard drums and the high, sweet “yi-yi-yi” of women singing outside my small hut in the highlands of Papua New Guinea. It was a balmy tropical night, and the villagers were celebrating the birth ofa child with food, music, and dancing. I was huddled under my covers, shivering violently. It was 1976. I was twenty-two years old, ten thousand miles from home, working my first job in a remote field station in the tropics collecting plants for a biologist studying plant-insect interactions. I had malaria. Sometime in the weeks after my arrival in Papua New Guinea, a femaleAnopheles...

    (pp. 135-162)

    One of the rewards of climbing into tall tropical treetops is being able to watch animals play. During my twenty-five years of canopy studies in Monteverde, Costa Rica, I have come to feel like a naturalized member of my ten-acre study site’s arboreal neighborhood. My initiation into the cloud forest’s interspecies community came in 1984, when my colleague Teri Matelson and I documented how birds use epiphytes, the plants that live in the crowns of trees. Ground-based ornithologists who study bird behavior in rainforests are typically limited to peering up at the canopy from a hundred or more feet below....

    (pp. 163-184)

    When my family first arrived in Olympia, we made our home on five wooded acres off Steamboat Island Road. Along with some good Douglas-fir trees, a single Pacific yew, and rnany cedars and hemlocks, the property featured wild rhododendrons, which were in glorious full bloom when we moved in. Over the past fourteen years, we have added five chickens, a trarnpoline, a weed-dominated vegetable garden, some struggling fruit trees, and a deck with a picnic table made by my father-in-law. When I do the dishes, I look out on an ancient maple tree. That tree tells me the season, just...

  11. Chapter Seven SIGNS AND SYMBOLS
    (pp. 185-213)

    One summer evening last year, I was standing in line to buy movie tickets. The cinema was showing three films—a historical drama, a motorcycle racing film, and a teenage horror flick—and a diverse file of people stretched ahead of me. I had spent that afternoon reading papers from my “Trees and Humans” class about symbols that are associated with trees. Looking down the movie line, I wondered how my students’ conclusions compared with what these people might think. So I drew a picture of an oak tree and walked down the line, explaining that I was a college...

    (pp. 214-242)

    A giantCeiba pentandratree marked the spiritual beginnings of my marriage to Jack Longino, now my husband of twenty-four years. As graduate students, we had met in the rainforest of Costa Rica and fallen in love. We looked forward to exchanging our vows in the hybrid Hindu/Jewish/Presbyterian ceremony we were planning for our family and friends. But it seemed appropriate to seal our commitment in the crown of a rainforest tree, a hundred feet off the ground. After pulling ourselves aloft with ropes and climbing gear, Jack and I settled into the broad branches of the ceiba for the...

  13. Chapter Nine MINDFULNESS
    (pp. 243-266)

    I lie dying.

    I can see it in my nlind.

    I am tied to a broad branch ofmy favorite fig tree high above the tropical rainforest floor at my study site in Costa Rica. My husband, Jack, gently tightens the straps a final time, kisses me again, and we say good-bye, recalling all the years and all the love between us. He sets his rappelling gear in place and slides down the rope to the forest floor. I hear the rustle of the leaves beneath his footsteps on the trail—pausing once, twice, then leaving me. When we were nlarried...

    (pp. 267-272)
  15. NOTES
    (pp. 273-292)
    (pp. 293-298)
    (pp. 299-302)
  18. INDEX
    (pp. 303-322)
  19. Back Matter
    (pp. 323-325)