Tamara Jennings, Nicola Harrison, Bob Langan and I tighten our shoelaces and pile into Sara Greene’s car for a day of field-based orientation.The Sitka Center is located within the Cascade Head Experimental Forest, which Greene once managed for the US Forest Service, and we couldn’t ask for a more knowledgeable or energetic guide. “I’m a fast walker,” Greene warns us as we hike single file through a one-acre research plot. “Just holler if you have questions or need me to slow down.”
I feel like a gangly, late-summer fawn as I shadow her uphill, marveling at the lithe efficiency of her forward motion. The site we’re exploring is one of a dozen permanently protected one-acre plots, established during the 1930s, where ecologists following in Greene’s footsteps still study how forests change over time. She lights up when we hear the voices of researchers calling out growth measurements from up in the canopy. “Oh, this is fortuitous! We’re seeing science in action!” “I’ve always loved being outdoors since I was a little kid,”Sara reflects on her place-based career. “Something I’ve come to appreciate with age is how things change and also how they stay the same, like how newtrees come into a cohort of old trees.”
Still naïve in my first year at Sitka, and building a new cohort of colleagues including Bob, Nicola and Tamara, I am grateful for Greene’s complimentary gifts of wisdom and open-mindedness. The day warms as we walk, but an early hint of fall ispresent in the forest air. In less than a month, the first of 28 visiting painters,printmakers, writers, photographers, musicians, scientists, playwrights and interdisciplinary creatives will begin arriving for the start of Sitka’s 49th residency season. “Science is often held up as the answer,” Greene continues as we come to the trailhead, “but there are lots of ways of looking at the world. That’s what I love about bringing Sitka’s residents out into the forest,especially the artists. Exposure to different perspectives broadens my understanding and my outlook as a scientist.”
The first resident Show & Tell event of the fall will take place at Sitka on Wednesday, October 2nd at 6pm in Boyden Studio. You are invited to gather with us, gain a first window into their work and help welcome them into our circle of trees. With thanks to Sarah Greene for her years of stewardship andher invitation to deepen our relationship with the surrounding environment and see the world we share through each other’s eyes.
Journal photos by Alison Dennis