Benedict Roemer Forest Under Story Reflection


View of Wolf Rock and Western Cascades from peak of Carpenter Mountain (Photo by Benedict Roemer)

  • HJA 1: In the introductory material (pages 1-14) the author asks the fundamental question, “What’s the story here?” After you have read the first chapter, answer the following questions (no more than a short paragraph per answer):

* What do you expect to observe when we visit the forests of the H.J. Andrews?

I hope to observe both sides of the forest that the book describes: the clear-cut, majestic cathedral side and the wild, thick shrubs and vines side. Seeing both personalities will give me the full story of the forest. I also hope to see a wide variety a wildlife while exploring the cathedrals and thickly shrubbed hillsides. While the trees are of course very important to telling the story of the forest, I believe that the wildlife which inhabits a forest is also instrumental to filling out the story.

* What are some different ways of telling the story of these forests? How do methods of creative  reflection support scientific inquiry and vice versa?

The story can be told creatively and imaginatively through essays or poems, paintings or photographs. It can also be told analytically and scientifically through  instrument reading and graphs and data. Both approaches to telling the story are very important, and actually support each other because one approach alone could not tell the full story. Pure scientific analytics and data cannot describe the ancient beauty of the forest or the feelings that it invokes in visitors. However, the scientific data is also essential to understanding the history of the forest as well as the many life forms that call thee forest home. Together, the science and creativity narrate the full story of the ancient forest.

* Why is the long-view critical to understanding the role of humans in the natural world?

Only by studying a forest like St. Andrews for many, many years can one begin to study the role of humans in the evolution of that forest. As the book points out, it takes about two hundred years for a fallen log to decompose and transform back into soil. Therefore, the forest should be studied for at least that long in order for scientists to document the full cycle of change. This includes the long term effects that humans have on the forest. In two hundred years scientists can see the long term effect of logging projects and forest fires. Naturally, as society evolves, so will the ways in which we interact with the forest and therefore we will never know exactly the effect that we are having on the natural world in any given moment, but we can certainly get closer to understanding our role in the natural world around us.


Forest along trail up Carpenter Mountain (Photo by Benedict Roemer)


View of Three Sisters from McKenzie Pass (Photo by Benedict Roemer)










  • HJA 2-4: For each of the main sections of the book (Part One, Two, and Three), read the Ground Work essays and at least three other entries for the section. Then answer the following questions (no more than a short paragraph per answer):


* Why was this theme chosen (e.g., Research and Revelation for Part One) to tell the story of the H.J. Andrews Experimental Forest?

2. The name of this section is a perfect introduction to the forest because research leads to revelation. By learning about the research conducted in the forest, the nature of the forest is slowly revealed to us. Once we become more familiarized with the forest, we can move forward in the book and our knowledge of the forest.

3. As we all know, change is the only constant. The same is especially true for the Andrews Forest where the ecosystem is in a state of constant change. Sometimes this change moves slowly, like the rotting of a log, and sometimes it comes suddenly and quickly with a massive storm or wildfire. However, along with the change is a certain amount of continuity, although even part of what is continuous is change.

4. This book has already focused on the importance of approaching research of a place from many unique directions. Therefore, it makes sense that the final section of the book would be titled “Borrowing Others’ Eyes”. This section of the book shows how different areas of research, such as hydrology and soundscape ecology, can contribute to the story of the Andrews Forest. All of these many methods are brought together in one place in this book and the most complete version of the story is told through the eyes and ears of many scientists from different fields and poets and writers simply exploring and observing the wild beauty all around them.

* What do you expect the landscape to look like from the passages in this section?

2. From the descriptions in this section of the book, I developed an image of a dark forest full of grand, tall trees, both conifers and deciduous. Rushing down the steep slopes are small creeks full of stones and interruptions from small waterfalls.  Lying around are fallen logs in various stages of decay and covered in small mushrooms. Scattered across the hills are areas  wiped almost bare by wildfires and logging, but even here saplings are starting to reach towards the often cloudy skies.

3. This section of the book paints a much more ragged and scared image of the forest. Now I imagine a landscape hillsides ravaged from mud slides or avalanches, and massive areas burned out by fires. I also picture acres of new growth forest full of barren, rocky fields and messy shrubs.

4. The first Ground Work essay in this section paints quite a vivid picture of a damp, moss and fog filled forest eternally dripping. However, this is during the rainy season in the winter, so I will not see that side of the forest. Many of the creative writings also speak about bright green beds of moss or clearings filled with green ferns, so I do still expect a landscape filled with a million shades of green. The landscape will be filled with the dark green of the needles in the treetops, to the bright, light green of new moss covering stones and fallen logs, and everything in between.

* Provide an example or two of how the scientific context presented in the Ground Work essay is reflected in creative storytelling for the section.

2. The storytelling in this section tells the story of the forest as well or even better than the Ground Work sections. They communicate what is taught in the Ground Work sections but then expand on that creatively and paint an even more complete picture of the forest. For example, the poem Cosymbionts by Vicki Graham talks about how the forest can be dissected into many minute parts, and how poetry can do that as well, describing each little detail. The first Ground Work in this section describes the landscape of the forest in many separate parts as the poem does, describing each part separately, but then as a whole as well. Another poem by Vicki Graham reflects on how an old growth forest is never still and how research plays a role in the constant activity of the forest. at the end of the poem, Graham concludes by saying that all the signs of research found in the forest show that the forest must be loved.

3. In Bill Yake’s essay Forest and People, he speaks extensively about the word change. He gives a dictionary definition and then he speaks about what it means in the context of the forest. He reflects that in the forest change can mean slow evolutionary change rapid, cataclysmic change. He also reflects that people’s opinions about the forest can also change, which relates to the third Ground Work piece which speaks about public opinion and the conservation of the forest. The poem Ten-Foot Gnarly Stick by James Bertolino muses on the passage of time. He finds that the characteristics of a stick that he finds reflect the path of his life. However, those knobs and dark spots can also show the story of the forest through time.

4. Jane Hirshfield begins her essay titled Wild Ginger by saying “The journey from ignorance to seeing is made by borrowing others’ eyes.” It is very possible that the editors decided to name the section off that fantastic quote because it so perfectly encapsulates what the section is all about. If I am not a hydrologists, I cannot teach myself what is described in the Ground Work essay on water, and I therefore must rely on the hydrologist’s eyes and understanding to end my ignorance of the subject. The same is of course true for soundscape ecology. However, Jane provides a much simpler, but just as important example of how this is true, by saying how  friend might point something out to you that you missed, and now you can not only see that thing, but also see it when it appears elsewhere. All the other creative essays and poems in this sections, and really in the whole book, are tributes to the value of borrowing others’ eyes because without them our own vision would be far too limited to see all the beauty and intricacies of the world around us.

* What’s a question you have about the forest from reading these passages?

2. The first Ground Work section says that their are not many sounds of wildlife in the forest. Is this because there simply aren’t many vocal birds and other creatures in the forest, or does something about the forest muffle any animal sounds that may be made?

3. Even though this forest forms a world of its own, it is not immune to the changing environment of our planet. Therefore, I am wondering how the warming temperatures and new and extreme weather patterns of climate change will shape and change the forest in the future.

4. This section about viewing the forest through other perspectives leaves me wondering if non natural scientist scientists have ever studies the forest. For example, has a psychologist ever studied the effect of forest on our mind? Or have economists ever studies or written about the monetary value of the forest? Not only the lumber contained in the forest, but also the value of medicines that can be found in the plants, such as the bark of the pacific yew than is a treatment for breast cancer.

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