The Loma Prietan - July/August 2010

Essay

The Na'vi and the Pine Tree

by Lisa Barboza

You can listen to the sounds of the earth in many places, including here at the Palo Alto duck pond, just off 101 at the end of Embarcadero Road. Photo: John Gibson, GOT Imaging
You can listen to the sounds of the earth in many places, including here at the Palo Alto duck pond, just off 101 at the end of Embarcadero Road. Photo: John Gibson, GOT Imaging

I want to be a Na'vi. Avatar, James Cameron's new movie, stirs the soul, even though the violent scenes of military combat and the arrogance of men are unsettling. Imagine a world that you could tap into-- your neural network hair-tail tapping into a planet's neural network and synapses. I have always looked at trees and noticed that they seemed to be hands clasped upon sky and roots connected in earth. I realized that if we could just see it, we would understand that we are all connected. Avatar is really a manifesto of a planet (our planet?) defending itself — a collective unconscious extended not just to living human brains but to cellulose, lignin, and reptilian medulla oblongata. What if we really could tap into our earth — our own little spaceship hurtling through the heavens? I feel that I can.

Most seem to be oblivious — some are city- and technology-bound to the pulse of electricity and the digital broadcast of human tumult. But listen, just stop and listen to the sounds of Hyla Regilla croaking for sex (and life) on a winter's eve. Listen to the sound of a red-tailed hawk, crying in the sunset gloom; listen to the whoosh of a golden eagle's wings as (s)he passes by you, surfing the vagaries of the wind. And listen to the blowing wind bringing earth's latest pronouncement on the affairs of men. Try to be one with ancient oaks, and moss, the smell of moist earth and healthy microorganisms. I want to be a Na'vi.

So now that brings me to the pine tree. In reading blogs about Avatar I find that for some viewers there is a curious sort of depression setting in — they bemoan the loss of our rainforest world, our nature, our essence — they want to live in the world of the Na'vi. But they live in cities, and they do not venture forth to the wilds. But that world of the Na'vi is all around us — just walk out your door, and listen. Walk far, travel light, breathe deep, and trust the weather gods. Sleep on the ground, near earth, as much as you can.

That we are one with the Earth is a Native Peoples' truth. But we are all there. We feel the Earth's tongs pulling at us — and we are longing, longing for the feeling of being one with it. We know it is there. A long time ago, before we were born, John Muir felt it. He knew. He worked to explain it to a world that was bent on Manifest Destiny, the Industrial Revolution and fortune and power, where men thought to conquer nature. And in those early years, he stood upon a rock in the middle of a raging King's River at Road's End to bring good tidings to our great grandparents. And we listened.

So You! Listen to the wind blowing through the boughs of a whitebark pine. Listen to the sounds of the earth. Stay at an alpine meadow and listen to the beauty. Follow the sun to the depths of the Earth and watch it rise over a mountain. And if you look for a Delphinus constellation in high summer and breathe the air on high, you are a Na'vi.

I want to be a Na'vi.

Lisa Barboza is a climber and engaged with the Chapter's Peak Climbing Section, peakclimbing.org. Check us out!