Great Oak on Wooden Gate


This silhouette of an oak tree is painted on weathered fence board with the ends of the limbs and roots connected to each other. It comes from the oak trees of southern Louisiana that extend their massive limbs outward and often touch the ground. As a child, I believed that the roots connected to them, allowing water to circulate endlessly through the tree. As a teen, this image became a metaphor for the interconnectedness of knowledge, with all outer branches connected. We seek a singular simplicity, the underlying physics of everything. Gerald Holton called this quest, The Ionian Enchantment. It was Liebniz’s “Impossible Dream”. Stephen Hawking’s “Ultimate Equation”. I believe young naturalists seek ideas that will make everything make sense, a kind of unifying theory, a refuge from our own confusion.