Happy Arbor Day! A Clip

Here’s a clip I put together just for Arbor Day. The bulk of this clip was shot on our first visit with the Milarchs in 2007. (Please pardon my little artsy interlude which was shot elsewhere.) This is one of my favorite bits of footage and I’m so glad cinematographer Wolfgang Held kept rolling, even though I told him he could stop shooting. (In 2007 I was adamantly against being in the film in any way.) Like several of the other clips on the blog, I don’t know if there’s a place for this in the film, but there’s a place for it here!


For more clips featuring trees check these posts out:

Cloning Redwoods Redux

Ask the Filmmaker: Turning the Tables

Prometheus, Older than Methuselah

Cloning Redwoods Redux

In your Sunday New York Times, an article on Archangel Ancient Tree Archive’s efforts.

On your monitor, a segment from the documentary, A Life’s Work (in post-production), featuring David Milarch of AATA (then known as Champion Tree Project).

And while you’re here, why not take a look at 10 Ways to Support A Life’s Work.

More clips from the work in progress:

Here’s a “Trailer”

Arcosanti architect, Paolo Soleri, at his first commission, Dome House

SETI astronomer Jill Tarter on Gender Bias in the 1950s

Searching for Gospel Vinyl with Robert Darden of the Black Gospel Music Restoration Project

Ask the Filmmaker: Turning the Tables

Dear Filmmaker,

Actually, this question didn’t start that way.

When I first sit down to interview someone for A Life’s Work,  I have a few things I mention before I ask the first question. One of those things is, “If you have a question for me, please ask it.”

When we spoke with David Milarch in his home in Copemish, MI, he took me up on that.


The Year in Review, Part 2

What were the most viewed posts on the A Life’s Work blog? Glad you asked.

The list is a little misleading, because some posts have been up for a lot longer than others, and so naturally will have more views. Still, a few posts are telling, like 2 and 13,  which lit up the stats because they were so timely.

  1. Paolo Soleri at Dome House: A Clip
  2. “The definition of life has just expanded”
  3. Unquantifiability of a Place, Part 1: A Clip
  4. The Redwoods: A Longer Clip
  5. Images from the MacDowell Colony
  6. It Was 50 Years Ago Today: A Clip
  7. This Post Is For You, Gearheads! (by Andy Bowley)
  8. Hardest/Easiest Work Environments So Far in 2010 (by Andy Bowley)
  9. Thank You
  10. About the Filmmaker
  11. Mike Disfarmer and A Life’s Work
  12. 10 Ways to Support A Life’s Work
  13. Top 10 Gospel Christmas Songs (by Robert Darden)
  14. Sunset and Sunrise in Arcosanti, AZ: 24 Hours Amidst a Sea of Arcology (by Niall David)
  15. SETI’s Jill Tarter on Gender Bias in the 1950s: A Clip

Apparently, you like clips (1, 3, 4, 6, 15) and you like guest bloggers (7, 8, 13, 14). You also like to be thanked or you like to Google names (9) and you like photos taken at a mysterious artist residency (5).

Why should you care? Because I want to make this blog an interesting experience for you, Dear Reader. And this is one way of figuring out how to do that. But the best way is if you actually tell me. So go ahead, tell me! What do you like? What would you like to see more of? Less of? What would you like that isn’t up there?

And what were my favorite posts? Well, they’re all my children, so I don’t have favorites. But I would add to the above list these (in no particular order):

I like guest bloggers, too (2, 4, 5, and 6). If you’d like to be one, contact me and we’ll work something out.

I also like posts that generate comments, whether that’s on the blog or Facebook or my personal e-mail. So drop me a line.

And Happy New Year. All the best to you and yours in 2011.

Why Would a 21 Year Old Be Interested in A Life’s Work?

Haroon Butt is a frequent commenter on the A Life’s Work blog, so I asked him to write something about why he keeps coming back to this blog. Here was his response.

Why do I keep coming back here?

David Licata is a friend of mine, yes, and yes I come back here because I am interested in what friends are up to. But there’s something different about A Life’s Work that attracts me. When I read this blog, I am not so much reading about the lives of Paolo Soleri, Jill Tarter, Rob Darden or David Milarch, but I am reading into my own life. I am a college student, entering my senior year at American University in Washington DC. It’s safe to say that pretty soon, I will have to decide my own path in life. Will I join the multitudes of people in office jobs? Will I become a secret agent? Will I become an architect, archivist, astronomer or tree farmer? What will I do?

That question has become the staple conversation amongst my peers. When I was in middle school, the question was “what high school I will be going to?” In high school it was “what college will you go to?” In college, it’s “what are you majoring in?” Now, at the cusp of completion, it’s “what will you do?” I don’t know. I have the freedom to do what I please, but with freedom comes the loss of direction. There are so many turns I can make, and each turn will determine the course of the rest of my life, or at least a huge chunk of it.

I feel that the movie speaks to us college/post-college folk very strongly. As we embark on our own “life’s work,” we seek stories that will help us along, give us some sort of guidance. The wisdom of others is what shapes our decisions. As the anxiety of entering the real world kicks in, the subjects of this film remind me that it’s not what I do that matters, but how much work, dedication, and love I put into it. If I devote myself entirely to something I believe in, my life will have meaning. What I do may seem insignificant on a cosmic level, but on a human level everything I do is significant. David Milarch has cloned a tree. Hundreds of years later, that tree will still be alive, providing shelter, food and oxygen for a future life to exist. If we ever find extraterrestrial life, it will undoubtedly be because Jill Tarter and the people at the SETI Institute laid the groundwork for scientific searching of the cosmos. Paolo Soleri’s legacy will live on through Arcosanti and his books, whether the structure is completed in his lifetime or not. The spirit that the black gospel musicians brought to their songs will be preserved and remembered because of Robert Darden’s work. And now all of these lives will be documented and preserved because of the work of David Licata. Everything creates a story, a history, and from history we learn and improve ourselves and move onwards.

So why do I keep coming back here? Is it reassurance that the next step in my life will be enjoyable and significant? Is it inspiration for me to create my own life’s work? Or is it motivation for me to get moving and get working, on something, anything? It’s probably a combination of all three, and the message of the film has inspired/motivated/reassured me to embark and create my own “life’s work.” How funny, and fitting, though that an architect, an astronomer, an archivist, and a tree farmer have inspired a filmmaker to make a movie, and in turn has inspired a college student to create a life for himself? Every little thing counts.

Thanks, Haroon.

It’s Not Just about Trees

The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago.  The next best time is now.

Chinese Proverb

Tree in spring
Tree in spring

I’ve received some good essays for the contest (all to my e-mail account, are you really that shy?), but I’m greedy and I want more.  Contest ends this Saturday (8/14). Here are the rules.

A Quote, a Photo and a Reminder

First the reminder. The win free art contest ends August 14. Click here for the details.

Now the quote, specifically chosen to inspire you to literary greatness:

The tree is more than first a seed, then a stem, then a living trunk, and then dead timber.  The tree is a slow, enduring force straining to win the sky. Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

And here’s the photo.

Photo of pine cones. (Still taken from A Life’s Work.)

Why Do I Keep This in My Wallet?

Jens_LekmanWhat does this ticket stub from a concert I saw in 2007  have to do with A Life’s Work? Before I get to that, let me tell you that I’m a huge Jens Lekman fan. In case you don’t know, Lekman is a Swedish pop musician. To call him “indie” seems not right. He’s got the gift of melody, a lovely voice, a fondness for both pared down home recording and over the top production, and a sentimental side that’s often tinged a little dark. Just go on Youtube and watch and listen to him after you read this.

Why do I keep this stub in my wallet along with my driver’s license, health insurance card, and select fortunes from fortune cookies? Because I saw this show the night before I traveled to Northern California alone to shoot David Milarch in the redwoods.

I was nervous because I’m always nervous the day before a shoot, but I was doubly nervous because I was going on this one solo. But seeing Lekman with my friend and fellow Lekmanhead RWC was a great distraction. But more than that, I had a little epiphany watching him that night. He was performing with a large band and everyone on the stage seemed to be having a great time. And it occurred to me that he was working and he was having a great time because he was doing something he clearly loved. And I thought, yeah, I’m going to the redwoods tomorrow, to one of the most magnificent places on the planet, and I’m going to be doing the thing I love more than anything else. Don’t be anxious. Be happy.

Well, honestly, I was still a little nervous, but I wasn’t anxious. And having this stub in my wallet is a reminder that when I’m filming, I’m doing the thing I love.

Six State Champion Trees on One College Campus? What Gives?

Why does the Missouri University campus in Columbia have six champion trees?

Because trees on college campuses aren’t cut down for lumber or development. They’re left to do their thing, which is to absorb carbon dioxide and provide oxygen, shade, beauty, and a sense of calm.

It’s no wonder then, that part of The Champion Tree Project’s goal is to plant the cloned champions on college campuses, where not only would they be out of harm’s way, but where they could also be studied. Smart idea.

But here’s a question for you: Why are most college campuses so verdant?

Photo: David Milarch checking in on a clone of the Buckley Elm tree on the campus of the Interlochen Center for the Arts.

The Images of the Sounds of A Life’s Work

Last week I posted some sounds of A Life’s Work. Here now are the matching images.

Please remember that I was selecting sounds for the contest and wasn’t too concerned with the quality of the captured images, so if you see some flaws in the shots, a little unsteadiness or a focus issue, be forgiving.


Locations: Arcosanti, Cordes Junction, AZ; The Allen Telescope Array, Hat Creek, CA; Hyde Park Records, Chicago, IL; The Riley Digitization Center, Baylor University, Waco, TX; Interlochen, MI; Buckley, MI.