Walking Beings

Coconino Center for the Arts, Flagstaff, AZ, 2022

Materials: Ponderosa pine trees from the 2010 Schultz Fire, logging boots, steel anchors

Michigan's majestic Eastern White Pine trees once covered more than two-thirds of that state's Lower Peninsula. These pine trees were over 300 years old. They stood 200 feet tall and their girth were eight feet in diameter. This was before the Saginaw & Manistee Lumber Company clear cut nearly twenty million acres of them in the mid to late nineteenth century. This was before they then moved to Oregon & Washington and then in 1893 opened a sawmill in Williams, Arizona and began cutting the majestic ponderosa pine.

On July 19, 1986, I took the Compartment Exam (timber inventory) after completing the month-long Forestry Summer at Utah State University. Was I the only are major to ever participate in this program? Likely. My Father had gone through the same program some thirty years earlier, and I, still wanting to follow in his footsteps and work for the U.S. Forest Service in some capacity, decided to enroll in the camp.

Driving to the camp up Logan Canyon, I stopped at the Art Department to say hello to my mentor, Adrian Van Suchtelen, who was hosting a workshop taught by Italian born-American artist, Joseph Mugniani. I should have been participating in the workshop, but instead I was thinking about how to make my future career as an artist financially work.

Because of what my Dad had taught me, many of the things we learned that summer were somewhat second nature, such as the scientific names of some fifty native plant species and how to read and visually memorize topographic and aerial maps. Compass work also came naturally to me. But after day three I almost gave up the program because I didn't understand, at all, the trigonometry needed for inventorying a forest and I struggled with the statistical analysis required after walking through and measuring a forest. Luckily, the same professor that my Dad had, now in his eighties, was there to take me under his wing and personally guide and help me along. And did I really care about learning how to cruise a forest in order to estimate volume for merchantable trees?