Tag Archives: trees

A Quote About Trees and a Calculator

A fool sees not the same tree that a wise man sees.
William Blake.

I’m not one for name calling, but it is certainly true that when a person like David Milarch or Jim Robbins, author of The Man Who Planted Trees, looks at a tree, they see it differently  than, say, a person who worked for the Pacific Lumber Company.

Jim Robbins (in the tree) with David Milarch.
What’s a Tree’s “Worth”?

Would you like to calculate the value of a tree planted near your home? Use the National Tree Benefit Calculator. Type in your zip code, the species of tree, and its diameter, and the calculator will tell you how much stormwater runoff that tree will intercept,  how much CO2 it will sequester, how much you will save in your summer electric bill, how much the tree will add to the real estate value, and more! It’s informative, fun, and couldn’t be easier. Give it a try!

The Man Who Planted Trees – Guest Blogger Jim Robbins

I met Jim Robbins when I followed David Milarch around a grove of Redwoods in Northern California in the fall of 2007. It was a tense shoot (you can read about it here), and Jim’s cool presence did a lot to settle my nerves. We’ve kept in touch, and when he comes to NYC, we try to catch up in person. I asked if he’d write a few words about his recent book, The Man Who Planted Trees: Lost Groves, Champion Trees and an Urgent Plan to Save the Planet, for the humble A Life’s Work blog. He graciously agreed. Thanks, Jim.

Screenshot of writer Jim Robbins taking a photograph at Roy’s Redwoods.

In 2007 I visited Roy’s Redwoods, a park in Marin County, California with David Milarch and David Licata. I was writing an article for the New York Times on Milarch, the founder of the Champion Tree Project, and his efforts to clone some big honking redwoods. The project was struggling, things seemed a long way from the goal of cloning the big, red trees and growing hundreds of copies. But five years later seems like an eternity. After several years of looking into the role of trees in the world I realized how precious little we know about them. Based on the few things we do know, I realized they are vital to life on the planet. In the meantime, Milarch raised millions from an angel investor to help realize his goal, and I not only wrote an article about Milarch, I wrote a book, The Man Who Planted Trees: Lost Groves, Champion Trees and an Urgent Plan to Save the Planet, which comes out this week.

You can order the book on Amazon. I’m reading it now (the perks of being a friend and a blogger, you get stuff early!) and I can tell you it’s worth picking up. And not just because I’m mentioned on page 90.

And if you’re eagle-eyed, you can spot the camera-totting, camera-shy Robbins in the Redwoods section below. Don’t blink or you’ll miss him.

The Giving Trees

Did you read yesterday’s New York Times Op-Ed Why Trees Matter, written by friend of A Life’s Work Jim Robbins?

That's Jim in the tree.

Well click the link and check it out. You may be surprised to learn (or re-learn) all the good things trees do for the planet and its inhabitants. I re-learned that aspirin comes to us thanks to willow trees. I knew there was a reason it was my favorite tree.

Jim ends the piece with one of my favorite quotes.

“When is the best time to plant a tree? Twenty years ago. The second-best time? Today.”

Jim Robbins’ book, The Man Who Planted Trees: Lost Groves, Champion Trees, and an Urgent Plan to Save the Planet, will hit books stores on April 17. You can pre-order it on Amazon.

The Forest: A Quote

The forest is a peculiar organism of unlimited kindness and benevolence that makes no demands for its sustenance and extends generously the products of its life activity; it provides protection to all beings, offering shade even to the axeman who destroys it.

Guatama Buddha, circa 525 B.C.

Among the Redwoods
David Milarch (kneeling) in a Redwood forest

Tree Climbers, Memory and Videotape: A Clip

Here’s about five and half minutes of raw footage from A Life’s Work.

I shared this footage in an earlier post (Process: What I’m Thinking When I’m Shooting). I want to share it again for a different reason.

I really enjoyed filming the climbers. They were smart, athletic, down to earth, and funny. They seemed to really enjoy their work and the company that employed them, Bartlett Tree Experts in San Rafael, CA. And Bartlett seemed to appreciate and nurture them. When I reviewed this footage for this post, I was looking for an exchange I had with these two climbers. I remember it, as they say, vividly.

“You guys have the coolest job,” I said.
And one of them replied, “I think you have the coolest job.”
“Pfffffttt…” I said.

I watched the footage over and over, certain that I had captured this exchange. If you have an eye for such things, you’ll notice that there’s one break at 4:05. After the break one of the climbers asks “Good to go?” If you could look behind the curtain and look at my logged tapes, you’d see that footage from before the break comes at the end of one tape, and the footage after the break comes from the beginning of another tape. So the exchange I cherish so much occurred while I was changing tape.

So much can happen in the few seconds it takes to change tape. Hopefully you forget about it and don’t live the rest of your days reliving the moment you failed to capture, the moment that would have made your film amazing. The exchange between the climbers and me? It wasn’t going to make A Life’s Work amazing. But it was one of my fondest moments there, made my time there amazing. But I remember it, and that’s good enough.

I do wish I had it on tape, though.

This post is dedicated to John Metzdorf, tree lover.

What’s Your 2nd Favorite Tree? The Ginkgo

You discover many fascinating things here on the A Life’s Work blog, like what’s the filmmaker’s favorite tree. And today?  What’s the filmmaker’s second favorite tree.

ginkgo [or maidenhair tree], often seen in big-city streets, as it has a constitution to survive the dangers there: polluted air, desert aridity of pavements, salt used to melt ice on sidewalks, and visits of male dogs. Fan-shaped leaves resemble the fronds of maidenhair fern. This is one of the two trees that have survived to our day from the Coal Age. (The other is cycad, which is halfway between a fern and a palm.) Pollen of the maidenhair tree is like the swimming spores of ferns. Instead of being carried by winds or insects, like the pollen of other trees, it must swim to the female flowers through rain or dew.

It is as though the maidenhair tree had been delivered to us by parcel post from the early Mesozoic Era, 120 million years ago. It had the narrowest escape from extinction, surviving only at a remote sanctuary in western China, where it had been tended by monks for generations as a temple decoration. Neither a fern, a pine tree, nor a hardwood — it is a combination of all three.

From 1001 Questions Answered About Trees, by Rutherford Platt, Dover Publications.

Goethe wrote a beautiful poem using the ginkgo as its central image. The link will take you to an image of the manuscript (he pasted  ginkgo leaves to it and gave it to an ex-lover) and translations of the poem in several languages, including English.

What’s your favorite tree? What’s your second favorite tree?

Rashomon and A Life’s Work

The other night I went to see Akira Kurosawa’s Rashomon at the Brooklyn Public Library. I’ve seen this film quite a few times, and a few years ago, while preparing for the Redwoods shoot, I watched the Woodsman’s trek sequence over and over. You can see it here, 7:20 into the clip. It lasts almost two minutes.


Kurosawa shot trees like no one else. (I also watched Throne of Blood many times, lots of good trees in that one, too.) If you watch the Redwoods sequence, you probably won’t find many direct references to Rashomon (I didn’t have the luxury of a large crew and tons of equipment to shoot the amazing tracking shots and I’m certainly no Kazuo Miyagawa), but somewhere in the DNA of that footage is the Woodsman’s trek.

See also: What Does This Filmmaker Read Before Shooting a Bunch of Old Trees?

Why Do I Keep This in My Wallet?