Category Archives: Science

Gaia’s Dance: All That Is

Gaia’s Dance by Elisabet Sahtouris

This is the fifth in the series of posts on the true nature of reality. Here we view Reality from a Gaian perspective.

Gaia’s Dance

Gaia’s Dance is a perceptive book about the living nature of our mother planet, Gaia. Scientist Dr. Elisabet Sahtouris can see the evolution of Earth as a dance of powerful energies. Not only does she look into ancient Greek and Vedic myths and past five-billion-year Earth history, but interprets the latest scientific findings and looks ahead into the future as well. She shows us how we’ve crippled Gaia and what we can do to make her healthy again, along with transforming our own human foibles and destiny. The book is entitled, Gaia’s Dance: The Story of Earth and Us, 2018 . This book is written in a comfortable style for non-specialists to understand the complex science. Other titles of Sahtouris include:  Earthdance: Living Systems in Evolution, A Walk Through Time: From Stardust to Us; and Biology Revisioned with Willis Harman.

The Dance of the Universe

“Every piece of matter, everything we know, is a beautiful ballet made of countless invisible dancers’ movements together. It is a dance too small to see, and yet so large it is the whole universe!

“This reminded some physicists that ancient people in India had called the universe the dance of Shiva and his wife, Shakti…and the dance of living nature, of the whole universe, is All That Is.

“Physicists everywhere now understand the universe this way, showing us that matter is a moving dance of energy forming endless patterns. What ‘matters’ is the design of the dance. People everywhere are getting this, too, that we are all One, all individually and together a single energy dance, all of us affecting each other’s lives, all of us co-creating our dance now and always.

“Perhaps the biggest question in science now is about the nature of this basic energy of All That Is. Just like the hunt for the tiniest indivisible ‘original’ particle from which all matter is composed, scientists now hunt for the original energy from which all the matter in the universe is made. Some physicists believe it is what we call consciousness as was, and still is, believed in the Vedic science of India; others disagree.”

Sea of Energy Model

Scientists have begun to abandon the popular Big Bang theory. Now scientists believe that the universe that we know began as ripples of energy like waves on a sea of energy, or like the breath of a living organism. In the 20th century, Einstein’s theory of relativity showed that matter is equivalent to energy. And quantum mechanics theory posits that everything is connected, which agrees with the ancient teachings of sages that All is One. What is it that makes All One?

Keyboard Model

Elisabet Sahtouris suggests we imagine the stuff of the universe as like a musical keyboard. It does make some sense, since musical notes are vibrations of different frequencies. The lowest keys/notes are the particles of Matter, the middle keys are the electromagnetic energies of light, and the highest keys are the high frequencies of Spirit. In this model, each of us is a being of Matter-Energy-Spirit. Einstein showed that matter and energy are the same thing. But what is this “same thing”? We are now beginning to accept the ages-old teaching of the Vedas that this basic stuff is consciousness, consciousness which is Spirit. Consciousness has all these vibrations of energy of the keyboard, from Spirit to Energy to Matter.

Consciousness: All That Is

The universe is All That Is. We are All That Is. 

What is “All That Is”? Well, isn’t it what consciousness is — pure energy? Physicists call All That Is the quantum field, a field of pure energy.

We will go into further consideration of the quantum field and we will be sharing further thoughts on consciousness in following posts.

The Evolving Dance

In the final chapter of Sahtouris’ Gaia’s Dance, she shares her wisdom with the reader.

“We humans, as we have seen, are still quite new compared with so many other species, yet we are already forming a still newer and larger global body of humanity. We are taking evolution to a new stage — one in which we are aware of what we are doing, one in which we organize ourselves by ideas instead of by instincts — one in which we can know ourselves as spirit having a human experience, as some people say, and knowing, or waking up to, our Oneness, our presence in All That Is.”

“If people all over the world come to love their own lives as part of Gaia’s Dance, Gaia’s big brain experiment may prove to be well worth the risk. We will all know that we are still young, as a human species, and can make the future as bright as we would like it to be. With our love and cooperation, Gaia’s Dance will go on in creative balance and harmony — both for itself and as part of the greater harmonies of the whole universe.”

In the Beginning …

The ancient Greeks said that the universe originated with the dance of the goddess Gaia. Dancing brought order out of chaos. Let’s take a further look at chaos.

Next: In the Beginning was Chaos

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True Nature of Reality

Milky Way over Rocky Mountains photo by Jeremy Thomas (click to enlarge)

Preface

It has been a while since Okunomichi last posted. We have been caught up in an outpouring of awakening energies that we had to pause and assimilate before we could communicate with you. We are expanding our field of attention to toward cosmic consciousness and exploring the true nature of reality. We are integrating wisdom of the past with the existential crisis of today as we look toward the future. The keywords of our categories and tags are more inclusive of the spiritual integrated with today’s emerging physical science — which is moving toward the spiritual. Soon, we may return to no separation between physical and spiritual science. Nor is there really any separation between our physical and spiritual natures.

True Nature of Reality

What is the true nature of reality? I have always wanted to know. That’s why I academically studied physics and astrophysics, and researched and published peer-reviewed papers. I could not get a handle on infinity nor on eternity. The answer to the true nature of reality does not lie in the physical world.

Consciousness

I discovered consciousness. Of course, we all know what we mean by ordinary consciousness as cognition and awareness. True consciousness is more than that. It is being aware of being aware. It is becoming aware that we are more than separate physical beings. We are also spiritual beings. We are the consciousness that connects us to the three-dimensional and higher dimensional worlds.

The Law of Unity

The world’s Ageless Wisdom traditions have always taught that We are All One in the Universe, with the Universe. There is a vibrating energy similar to the light we can see but of frequencies that we don’t sense with our physical senses. This light of consciousness is called Love, Unconditional Love, that unites All in the Universe.

The Ageless Wisdom

The Ageless Wisdom is also the Perennial Philosophy, the esoteric teachings that have been taught in mystery schools over the ages and all over the Earth. Teachers include Helena P. Bavatsky after her trip through the HImalayas, and Alice A. Bailey with ascended master Dwaj Kuhl in the 20th century, and many more in the 21st century. The Ageless Wisdom is truly ageless and perennial, for it is the secret teaching of the true nature of reality. Ageless Wisdom teaches that we are spiritual beings in physical bodies. We come from a non-physical dimension, and we are all connected through consciousness. Consciousness is the foundation of all in the universe.

The Ageless Wisdom has been a highly esoteric teaching, that is, it is not for the general public. However, It is now becoming more exoteric, out in the open as masses of people are becoming more spiritually aware. This is part of the movement of energy in our solar system and spiritual evolution in general.

Yellow Sky by Nicholas Roerich, 1874-1947

Wosite Wisdom

In the last dozen years, my focus has been in studying the ancient wisdom of the Jōmon period in Japan, called Wosite (Wo-si-te or Wo-shi-te). The indigenous people of the Japanese archipelago developed a unique high civilization in the span of 15,000 years after the end of the last Ice Age. The spoken and written Wosite language is based on fundamental creative energies. However, Wosite knowledge and wisdom went underground due to political changes beginning two thousand years ago. Wosite has been revived in the last six decades. I am the first American student of Japanese Wosite teachers. It is my sacred responsibility to share Wosite with the English-speaking world.

For Wosite is Ageless Wisdom.

Wosite Cosmology chart by Sakata Shoko

Gaia and a New Humanity

For a long period of time, we humans have dug ourselves deeply into exploring and exploiting the physical world. We have created a situation which is becoming more and more untenable, unsustainable, and unstable. It threatens the very existence of our Mother Planet and humanity. Gaia is the Greek goddess of Earth, viewed as the mother of all creation. The name Gaia was revived by James Lovelock (26 July 1919 – 26 July 2022) in his Gaia theory.

Prophets of old and new times have predicted an evolved humanity with higher consciousness. Gaia herself is evolving into a higher dimensional spiritual being. If we don’t evolve with her, we will be left behind.

Enlightened Beings in Japan

How did the world’s great civilizations pop out of the mundane? Enlightened beings, ascended masters, have incarnated on Earth to teach the Wisdom and to develop human society.

An enlightened being such as Sanat Kumara must have engendered the advanced civilization of Wosite. One such person mentioned in Wosite texts is a human Kami (a person with super-high consciousness) who organized the spoken and written Wosite language and taught skills and technologies to the indigenous people. He taught the cosmology of how life is created from energy. He attributed such deep knowledge to even earlier ancestors.

Sanat Kumara from Arcturus

Another ascended master to have been in ancient Japan of 10 million years ago is Sanat Kumara. Sanat Kumara is spoken of in ancient Vedic teachings and in more modern times by Blavatsky and Bailey and others. He has transmitted telepathic messages that he is originally from the system of the star Arcturus, and visited Mt. Kurama in northern Kyoto 10 million years ago. “Kura” in Arcturian means “portal” or “stargate.” Arcturus is a very bright star in the constellation Boötes. Sanat Kumara refers to himself as extra-galactic, for it is possible that Arcturus is astronomically from another galaxy. 

Mt. Kurama

I have visited sacred Mt. Kurama several times and I’ve noticed a shrine to Sanat Kumara. I long wondered what it was doing at Kurama Dera, a supposedly Japanese Buddhist temple. There are three statues in the hondo main temple. One of them is an unusual being who is said to have come from Venus six million years ago. Maōson may be a later interpretation of Sanat Kumara. When I asked the Abbess of Kurama Temple about Maōson, she explained that he is an energy being and further, that all in the Universe is energy. 

Maōson statue aka Sanat Kumara in Kurama Temple

Global Movement

There is an awakening movement around the world. More and more people are meditating, spreading Unconditional Love, and evolving human consciousness. Humanity is becoming increasingly Gaian, people who are One with our Earth Mother. Soon we will be full citizens of our Milky Way Galaxy and participate in the evolution of the galaxies in this Universe. 

True Nature of Reality

This is the true Nature of Reality: infinite and eternal. This is the Ageless Wisdom for us as we evolve our consciousness toward enlightenment.

Next: Starseed Messages

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HAPPY NEW YEAR! WINTER SOLSTICE 2020

Map of Japan showing latitudes. The three main islands lies approximately 30 to 40 degrees north latitude. Image credit

FUYU ITARU HI:  WINTER SOLSTICE and THE SIX-SEASON SOLAR CALENDAR 

In the Wosite language of Jōmon Japan, the winter solstice was termed, fuyu itaru hi, the day that winter (fuyu) arrives. In modern Japan, this same meaning is pronounced tōji. Yet in haiku over the years, the older indigenous fuyu itaru hi frequently appears.

As we have shown in other articles, the Jōmon certainly had used a solar calendar of their own making. The solar-tracking megaliths of Kanayama are evidence of this. This is natural in an early civilization so attuned to the life-giving sun.

Hiyomi and Koyomi

The solar calendar is confirmed in the Wosite writings of the same period, circa 5,000 years ago. They name a brilliant man named Achihiko Omoikane as its creator, for which he received the title, Hi-yomi-no-miya, Master of the Solar Calendar. Until that time, calendars were called koyomi (ko-yomi), meaning to read the trees for the seasons. Even though Japan now uses the Gregorian solar calendar, the word for calendar is still koyomi!

Achihiko showed how to read the sun for more accurately knowing the seasons of the year. For practical reasons in a rural landscape without electricity or flashlight batteries, indigenous people relied on lunar phases to mark the days. However, the lunar calendar does not match well with the solar year; too many adjustments are needed. The people of Wosite times wanted to know the solar year which tells the seasons for practical purposes such as fishing, hunting, and agriculture. 

One might speculate that the earliest shrines in the form of standing megaliths or grove of sacred trees were oriented toward the east, and we have seen many cases of this. Later, perhaps, their astronomical knowledge enabled them to place shrines solsticially. 

Winter Solstice Sunrise

In the land of Japan, between 30 to 40 degrees north latitude, the winter solstice sun rises and sets 30 degrees south of the east-west line. In field trips to hundreds of old shrines, we have found a predominance of shrines facing either the sunrise or the sunset of winter solstice. This implies that ancient people knew how to determine these solstice directions. And they found it significant to orient their sacred places to honor the sun’s return to the north. 

One of the oldest shrines in Japan is the Asadori Jinja. Its origin is unknown. Yet, the local Shinto priest conducts a ceremony starting just before dawn on winter solstice morning. The villagers have assembled to greet the sun as it rises. At first light, they shout “ka-kee kō!” Thus the name of the shrine, Asa-dori, which means the Bird of Morning, the rooster. 

Solar Observations of the Kanayama Megaliths

On the Higashinoyama (Eastern Mountain) of Kanayama are a grouping of lying megaliths some 9 meters long. They point to the sun as it clears the terrain on the morning of the winter solstice. 

Moreover, observations can be made 60 days before and after this date. (Solar observations can be made more accurately when the sun is not near solstice). The earlier date gives advance notice of the day that winter solstice will arrive so that they could prepare their ceremony. As well, this is an important date in their solar calendar as we shall shortly explain.

By careful observations over long periods of time, the Jōmon people knew the four-year leap-year cycle as well as the longer 128-year cycle. Theirs is an observational calendar, always true to the actual movement of the sun.

In the Wosite literature the winter solstice marked the beginning of the new year. Our own Gregorian calendar begins the new year on January 1, ten days after the winter solstice. Was this choice deliberate? The Solar calendar of the Jōmon was deliberately designed “from scratch,” so to speak.

Kanayama Solar Calendar with Six Seasons 

The Kanayama solar calendar is noteworthy for its six-part symmetry. Each season is approximately 60 days long. In this chart, we have placed winter solstice at the bottom, when the sun is lowest in the sky, furthest south. The calendar reads clockwise. Let’s approximate the year as having 360 days. Then the 60 days before winter solstice may be considered to begin the early winter season, and 60 days after winter solstice marks the end of late winter and the beginning of the 60-day spring season. Spring lasts, on this calendar, from 30 days before to 30 days after the vernal equinox. And so it goes for the rest of the year until the calendar and the sun cycle back around. In this chart from the Kanayama Research Center, the dates shown in red are actual dates when multiple solar observations are made at the megaliths.

On wall calendars in the U.S., the winter solstice date is labelled the “first day of winter.” In the U.K., this day is termed “midwinter day.” It’s interesting that the U.K. custom matches the six-season calendar.

Asanoha Sacred Symbol

The six-fold symmetry of the solar calendar is reminiscent of the sacred symbol of the asanoha motif. Asanoha represents the vigor of the asa hemp plant, sacred to the people. The asanoha pattern is often found in children’s clothing and dishes to wish good health and longevity. The asanoha pattern shown here on the left in woodwork is the Japanese version of the flower of life. The diagram on the right is a copy of the flower of life pattern in stone of the Temple of Abydos in Egypt. 

Hemp is known for being long used in making ropes for its strength and durability. While growing hemp was banned for a period of time in certain countries when it was thought to contain THC, the hallucinatory chemical in marijuana, the hemp plant is now making a comeback to legality and is serving for health and medicinal purposes, as it was meant to do. It is also a sustainable plant and is being more widely used in ecofriendly fabrics.

Astronomical Cross Quarters of Space

We find that the four dates which delineate the boundaries of the 120-day summer and winter seasons are known to astronomers as the cross-quarter dates. These dates do not divide the temporal year into four parts of 91 days each. Rather, they divide the times of the year when the sun’s path in the sky moves into another of the four zones. With the solstices marking the extreme borders, there are six calendar dates dividing the Jōmon calendar into six seasons. This is very interesting, since the ancient Vedic calendar of India has the same six seasons. However, the Vedic calendar is based on stellar observations and will gradually cease to match the solar year as the star patterns in the sky change due to a precessional cycle of around 26,000 years.

In this NASA chart , the zone occupied by the sun in the sky is bordered by the red arc for summer solstice and the green arc for winter solstice. It is divided into two parts by the path of the sun during the equinoxes, shown in blue. The cross-quarters are the further division of each half again into half, thus forming four quarters of the sun’s zone. By this, we mean the angles are divided into half. For example, for latitudes around 35 degrees the red and green arcs are separated by 60 degrees; the half-way angles are separated by 15 degrees. 

Summary

In conclusion, we have discussed the Jōmon indigenous solar calendar. We have pointed out some aspects of ancient calendars and how the sun is observed on certain days of the year, including the winter solstice. The winter solstice has served as the start of the new year in many indigenous cultures as well as in Japan. 

The return of the sun on the winter solstice is certainly a cause for celebration!

P.S. A related winter solstice post on Iwakage, the blog site of the Kanayama Megaliths is here.

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Chaos of Creation

Source, by Rowena Pattee Kryder

As we saw in the previous post, chaos can be good news. Let’s consider chaos a bit further. Creation myths around the world begin with a form of chaos: darkness, clouds, mud,… In the book by Rowena Pattee Kryder, Source: Visionary Interpretations of Global Creation Myths, is a Preface by Stanley Krippner, Ph.D. Dr. Krippner writes:

“I see myths as time-honored stories, social narratives, or personal constructs that address existential or spiritual human issues.”

“Creation myths often state a dilemma, but human beings must embark on their own journey to resolve the paradox of existence.”

“Dr. Kryder’s reminder that beyond the diversity of existence there is unity, wholeness with the Source of it all, is a gift. These ancient creation myths can provide metaphors still worthy of incorporation into the personal myths that are hammered out each day on the anvil of people’s lives.”

Dr. Kryder, in her last chapter, relates creation myths to cosmogenesis of modern physics. In particular, she addresses the super-implicate, implicate, and explicate orders in the theory of quantum physicist David Bohm. She concludes:

“In general, the creation myths imply that we have the wholeness within us. We are the wholeness — one with the Source. We need only release attachment to our limited identities, forms, images and dramas. Then we realize what is always true: We are one with Creation and one with Source at once, by simply being who we are — and aware of who we are.”

Chaos can indeed be good news. Chaos can lead to oneness with each other and with Source.

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“Chaos is good news!”

Snapshot from a computer simulation of the formation of large-scale structures in the Universe, showing a patch of 100 million light-years and the resulting coherent motions of galaxies flowing towards the highest mass concentration in the centre. The snapshot refers to an epoch about 10 billion years back in time. The colour scale represents the mass density, with the highest density regions painted in red and the lowest in black. The tiny yellow lines describe the intensity and direction of the galaxy’s velocities. Like compass needles, they map the infall pattern and measure the rate of growth of the central structure. This depends on the subtle balance between dark matter, dark energy and the expansion of the Universe. Astronomers can measure this effect using large survey of galaxies at different epochs in time, as shown by the new research.

The world is in a difficult time. We can even say it is a time of chaos. How can chaos be good news?

We came across these words from Tibetan master Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche:

“Chaos should be regarded as very good news.”

This sentence appears in his book, The Myth of Freedom and the Way of Meditation. Here is the context.

“The Lion’s Roar is the fearless proclamation that any state of mind, including the emotions, is a workable situation, a reminder in the practice of meditation. We realize the chaotic situations must not be rejected. Nor must we regard them as regressive, as a return to confusion. We must respect whatever happens to our state of mind. Chaos should be regarded as very good news…. Whatever occurs in the samsaric mind is regarded as the path, everything is workable. It is a fearless proclamation — the lion’s roar.”

The following is a commentary on Trungpa Rinpoche’s quote in the book by Patricia Donegan, Haiku Mind: 108 Poems to Cultivate Awareness and Open Your Heart. She writes:

“It doesn’t always feel that way, but the chaos is a moment or time of lack of control and of surprise, in which anything is possible, beyond our judgment of good or bad. In Tibet it is believed that the enlightened Buddha energies manifest in either peaceful or wrathful forms, depending on what is called for, to protect and awaken us. The reason why it is ‘good news’ is because the nonfixed, chaotic state of things creates an open field in which new things can emerge and grow.”

Let us be fearless and use this opportunity to create a better world for all.

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FOREST BATHING

If you have been out on a nature walk through woods, you will remember the relaxed and happy feeling for a long time. Forest bathing, or forest therapy, is a loose translation of the Japanese practice of shinrin-yoku. Shinrin means forest, and yoku (equivalently abiru) means to bathe or bask in. In this case, one basks in the pleasant and healing atmosphere of a forest. The Japanese have known this for decades, centuries, or longer. It is only recently that it has become popular as scientific research has proven its effectiveness. 

Here are two of the many news articles on forest bathing.

https://www.webmd.com/balance/news/20190611/forest-bathing-nature-time-hot-health-advice

https://time.com/5259602/japanese-forest-bathing/

In the second article, a link to “phytoncides” explains:  

Some research suggests that when people are in nature, they inhale aromatic compounds from plants called phytoncides. These can increase their number of natural killer cells, a type of white blood cell that supports the immune system and is linked with a lower risk of cancer. These cells are also believed to be important in fighting infections and inflammation, a common marker of disease. https://time.com/4718318/spring-exercise-workout-outside/

Here is a long survey paper by the author of one of the first books on forest bathing, a medical doctor at Tokyo’s Nippon Medical School:  

Qing Li, “Effect of forest bathing trips on human immune function”.  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2793341/. Dr. Li’s popular book is Forest Bathing: How Trees Can Help You Find Health and Happiness, April 2018.

Quite a few books have appeared by other authors and they are easily found by a search on a book site. Also published in 2018 is the book by Professor Yoshifumi Miyazaki:

Shinrin Yoku: The Japanese Art of Forest Bathing by Yoshifumi Miyazaki in June 2018.

Prof. Miyazaki was among the first to study forest therapy. He is professor at Chiba University’s Center for Environment, Health and Field Sciences. An online interview with Prof. Miyazaki tells how he started. https://www.nippon.com/en/people/e00140/miyazaki-yoshifumi-explores-the-healing-power-of-the-forest.html.

INTERVIEWER   What is shinrin-yoku?

MIYAZAKI YOSHIFUMI   It’s an activity where people relax by synchronizing, or harmonizing, with the forest. The term was coined in 1982 by Akiyama Tomohide, director of the Japan Forestry Agency. The agency wanted people to visit Japan’s forests and relax. It was a way to increase the value of these lands.

INTERVIEWER   How did scientific research into shinrin-yoku begin?

MIYAZAKI   I led the first experiments to study the effects of the practice on the island of Yakushima in 1990. At the time, I was 35 and had no research funds of my own, but I was approached by NHK, which funded the experiments as part of a TV program. A new technique had just been developed to detect the levels of cortisol, a stress-related hormone, in saliva. We used that to measure stress and relaxation. “Forest therapy,” meanwhile, refers to shinrin-yoku backed by scientific data, and is a term that I coined myself in 2003.

These are some of Dr. Miyazaki’s earlier books in Japanese.

自然セラピーの科学 Shizen Serapii no Kagaku (Nature Therapy Science), October 2016

森林医学 Shinrin Igaku (Forest Medicine), June 2006, coauthor

森林浴はなぜ体にいいか Shinrin yoku wa naze karada ni iika (Why is Forest Bathing Good for the Body?), July 2003

Let us close with Dr. Miyazaki’s words:

MIYAZAKI   In Japan, various shinrin-yoku programs have been developed. These involve various activities: basic ones, such as slow walking and sitting, but also deep breathing, Nordic walking, embracing trees, yoga, meditation, stretching, and even picnics. There are also possibilities like night-sky viewing, cloud watching, playing in water, waterfall viewing, and enjoying music concerts in the forest.

Photos by Okunomichi

The idea of forest bathing is not far from the practice of nature-based Shinto. Okunomichi reported on an interview with Shinto priest and professor Minoru Sonoda. Dr. Sonoda has promoted sacred forests which are often found behind Shinto shrines as well as in wilderness areas. His description helps to explain why forest bathing reduces stress. It is no wonder that the recent forest bathing activity emerged out of the forests of Japan.

Dr. Sonoda is proactive in the chinju no mori sacred forest movement. What is chinju no moriMori means forest. Chinju is written 鎮守. The first character 鎮 is read as shizumeru, to calm the spirit; the second character 守 is mamoru which means to protect. Thus, we may say chinju no mori is a forest whose tranquility is protected. In other words, let’s protect the peace and serenity provided us by forests.

Revised 2019.09.30

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Science Comics: Trees: Kings of the Forest by Andy Hirsch

Science Comics: Trees: Kings of the Forest by Andy Hirsch, 2018.

This is an excellent addition to the Science Comics series, written for children 9-13, yet also suitable for adults as well. Andy Hirsch has done an outstanding job of explaining in easy-to-understand and entertaining comic format the detailed information contained in the book by Peter Wohlleben (which is cited as one of the references, and reviewed in our previous post).

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THE HIDDEN LIFE OF TREES by Peter Wohlleben

The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate. Discoveries from a Secret World, 2016. 

Peter Wohlleben is a forester in Germany, where he runs an environmentally friendly woodland and works for the return of primeval forests. He is the author of numerous books about trees. The following are excerpts from this stunning book, stunning because of its revelations about the amazing abilities of trees to send messages to other trees, to provide food and other support to neighboring trees, develop smart defense mechanisms and to share them. It’s almost as if trees have minds and feelings!

As we know during this critical time of climate change, one of the most effective means of survival is through the enormous capabilities of trees and forests to sustain life on this planet. We must learn all we can about these abilities and harness them in sustainable ways for a healthy planet.

Excerpts

A tree is not a forest. On its own, a tree cannot establish a consistent local climate. It is at the mercy of wind and weather. But together, many trees create an ecosystem that moderates extremes of heat and cold, stores a great deal of water, and generates a great deal of humidity. And in this protected environment, trees can live to be very old. 

Every tree, therefore, is valuable to the community and worth keeping around for as long as possible. And that is why even sick individuals are supported and nourished until they recover. 

p 4

Trees, it turns out, have a completely different way of communicating: they use scent. … The acadia trees that were beig eaten gave off a warning gas that signaled to neighboring trees of the same species that a crisis was at hand. Right away, all the forewarned trees also pumped toxins into their leaves to prepare themselves.

pp 6-7

Trees don’t rely exclusively on dispersal in the air, for if they did, some neighbors would not get wind of the danger. Dr. Suzanne Simard of the University of British Columbia in Vancouver has discovered that they also warn each other using chemical signals sent through the fungal network around their root tips, which operate no matter what the weather. …

The fungal connections transmit signals from one tree to the next, helping the trees exchange news about insects, drought, and other dangers. Science has adopted a term first coined by the journal Nature for Dr. Simard’s discovery of the “wood wide web” pervading our forests.  [S.W. Simard et al, “Net Transfer of Carbon between Tree Species with Shared Ectomycorrhizal Fungi,” Nature 388 (1997): 579-82.

pp 9-11

A tree can only be as strong as the forest that surrounds it.

p 17

The forest is really a giant carbon dioxide vacuum that continually filters out and stores this component of the air.

p 93

If we want to use forests as a weapon in the fight against climate change, then we must allow them to grow old, which is exactly what large conservation groups are asking us to do.

p 98

Forest air is the epitome of healthy air. …The air truly is considerably cleaner under the trees, because the trees act as huge air filters. Their leaves and needles hang in a study breeze, catching large and small particles as they float by. 

p 221

Forests differ a great deal from one another depending on the species of trees they contain. Coniferous forests noticeably reduce the number of germs in the air, which feels particularly good to people who suffer from allergies. 

p 222

The real question is whether we help ourselves only to what we need from the forest ecosystem, and — analogous to our treatment of animals — whether we spare the trees unnecessary suffering when we do this. 

That means it is okay to use wood as long as trees are allowed to live in a way that is appropriate to their species. And that means that they should be allowed to fulfill their social needs, to grow in a true forest environment on undisturbed ground, and to pass their knowledge on to the next generation. And at least some of them should be allowed to grow old with dignity and finally die a natural death.

pp 242-243

We encourage you to learn about trees and forests by reading this book. Another book, in comic-book style for young and not-so-young readers, is discussed in our next post.

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What is Fossa Magna and what does it have to do with jade and the islands of Japan?

IMG_2819

Ancient jadeite showing skillful techniques

Fossa Magna Museum

This wonderful geology museum is located in the city of Itoigawa. It is named after the Great Crack in the middle of Japan, the terminus of the Japan Median Tectonic Line (map below). The Fossa Magna (Latin for great rift) refers to the place where Pacific/Oceanic and Continental plates meet. You can learn all about it at this museum. Itoigawa is the home of Japanese jade, and this is its museum.

MTL

Itoigawa City, Home of Jade

hisui

Itoigawa is a charming small city on the coast of the Japan Sea, in the prefecture of Niigata. Itoigawa is on the Japan Median Tectonic Line, and its location is marked with a red arrow. The Fossa Magna zone is shown in yellow. Itoigawa is known as Japan’s source of jade, the mineral/gem jadeite. Jade has a long history in Japan, and it has been worked by early Jomon people. Jadeite is called hisui. It is usually written in kana characters, ヒスイ or  ひすい , so perhaps this term is of Jomon origin. Jadeite was named the National Stone of Japan in 2016.

Nunakawa-hime, Lady of Jade

Nunakawahime statueIn Koshi-no-kuni, also known as Esshū province, now known as Hokuriku, a folk heroine of Itoigawa is Nunakawahime. Legend says she was beautiful and wise, and she knew how to make magic using jade. Her fame was so great that the famous Ōkuninushi came from Izumo in the west to win her hand. And he did. Their son became Takeminakata, the kami revered at Suwa Taisha in nearby Nagano. This statue of Nunakawahime holding a large jade stands on the north side of the Itoigawa station.

Birth of the Oldest Jade in the World

How was jade created? The process began 500 million years ago. Jadeite crystallizes from a hydrothermal liquid in the subduction zone of two tectonic plates. In a zone about 30 to 50 km below the surface, elements (Na, Al, Si, and H2O) formed jadeite at temperatures of 250 to 650 C. Jadeite was created during the period 100 to 500 million years ago.

hisui surfaces

Itoigawa lies on the border of two plates. 250 million years ago, the Oceanic plate (right) pushed below the Continental plate (left). Jadeite (colored turquoise) that had been created deep below rose to the surface.

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Jadeite comes in various colors depending on the elements present in it. The colors range from white, through various shades of green, lavender, and blue, to black.IMG_2816

History of Jade in Japan

first jade jewelry

6000 years ago, jade jewelry in the form of small pendants were made. They were of gemstone quality and may be the oldest human-worked jade in the world.

5000 years ago, there were jade workshops making larger pendants in Itoigawa, as found at the Chojogahara and Teraji archaeological sites in Itoigawa.

3000 years ago, magatama pendants were made. 

first magatamaMagatama means curved bead. They were generally comma-shaped, hence their name; they were also in the shapes of animals and insects.

8th century, a Buddhist statue, containing jade, is made for Todaiji. Subsequently jade mysteriously disappears from the scene. It was believed for a long time that there was no more jade in Japan.

In 1938, the tanka poet Gyofu Soma suggested that jade might be found in Itoigawa because of the Nunakawahime legend. And jade was rediscovered in Japan.

Fossa Magna and The Birth of the Japanese Islands

There is a stunning video at the museum which explains the role of the Fossa Magna in forming the islands of Japan. The Fossa Magna was once under sea. 20 million years ago, the land was still connected to Asia. Then it broke apart from Asia and the Sea of Japan was created. The land split into two parts: the southern part of the land rotated one way and the northern part rotated the other way, creating an opening, like a door. Fossa Magna was in the sea in this gap. Then the eruption of subterranean volcanoes filled the Fossa Magna sea with ash, sand, and mud. And connected the two parts of land. Thus was the main island of the archipelago created. Volcanoes on land formed 2.6 million years ago in the Fossa Magna zone, like Mt. Fuji on the main island of Honshu. The dark area in the middle is the Kanto Mountains, and Mt. Fuji is on the left edge.

volcanoes of fossa

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December Solstice Greetings

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Megalith for viewing winter solstice sunrise (photo by S. Tokuda)

 

One Earth, One Sun, One People

In ancient cultures, winter solstice day was the beginning of the new year. On this shortest day of the year, people knew that the next day would start to be slightly longer, and spring would be coming. Winter solstice is a symbol of rebirth and regeneration.

December 21 and 22 mark the days of the solstice which we call the winter solstice in the Northern Hemisphere, summer solstice in the Southern Hemisphere.

Iwakage has posted an article entitled, Winter Solstice 2017. It gives some of the dates and times in various time zones around the world. At the instant of time that is astronomical solstice, it is already early Friday morning of the 22nd in Japan, where Iwakage is located. One of the “earliest” times is in Hawaii when the solstice occurs at 6:28 a.m. on the 21st.

To our readers around the world, thank you for visiting us:

U.S., Japan, France, Italy, U.K., Australia, Canada, Brazil, Germany, Morocco, Russia, Netherlands, Spain, India, Philippines, Hungary, Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Ireland, Belgium, Mexico, Switzerland, Estonia, Chile, Thailand, New Zealand, Serbia, Bulgaria, Portugal, Austria, S. Korea, Ukraine, Argentina, Finland, Romania, Poland, Taiwan, Switzerland, Slovenia, S. Africa, Israel, Greece, E.U., Norway, Cape Verde, Czech Republic, Luxembourg, Peru, Denmark, United Arab Emirates, Colombia, Turkey, China, Iceland, Belarus, Croatia, Pakistan, Latvia, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Bangladesh, Lithuania, Puerto Rico, Slovakia, Venezuela, Panama, and eighty other countries.

Seeing the names of these 150 countries truly impresses upon us that we are all One People living on this Earth under our Sun. Solstices, equinoxes, and all the days of the year come to all of us. Although the times on our clocks may differ, these astronomical times are the exact same moment for all of us.

Okunomichi wishes every one of you a Happy New Year!

 

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