Astatize to Survive

Robert Duncan-Enzmann

Astatize Definition: To render astatic.

As a child of three and four, I wondered at the motion of the tree branches moving discordantly past each other in the wind, with motion diminishing toward the trunk. I got no answers.

Later I watched the flutter of flags and undulations of long tail Chinese and Japanese kites. The waves tended to be similar, but faster as wind speed picked up. Why? Don’t know, but it is sort of like the tree branches, and vaguely reminds one of various size ‘air spins’ from little spins, through smoke that chases one around a campfire, to the dust devils about Peking’s (then Beijing) western hills at the edge of the Gobi Desert.

Then, the beginnings – just the beginnings – of understanding when sailing in a four-mast barkentine in waters of the southwest Pacific. It’s amazing what sailors know and apply by watching the ‘buffing’ and faster movements of sails in various winds. At the same time a pleasure to begin understanding how ship-builders tune the sails, nests, and hulls of sailing ships to the chorus of winds songs amid harmonies with occasional dissonances orchestrated by waves.

That’s it!

That, when I was eight to twelve, explained the trees. But the lessons came hard. In a typhoon (as hurricanes are called in the far-off East Indies Asian Pacific mega storms) trees bow – all branches and boughs moving together. It is called beating. It often breaks branches, uproots trees, and even shatters trunks of well-rooted trees.

It. What is the ‘it’?

It’s the air and the winds in it. The air has structures that move. The trees ‘know it’. Trees evolved, growing high above other plants to catch the sunlight, but in doing that they had to adapt to all but the most exceptional winds such as the worst parts of the worst hurricanes and cyclones.

Wonderful indeed is the way plants and other life forms evolve to adapt. The great sequoia grows higher than all other plants and needs millennia to fully mature. They, like all trees, ‘learned’ that if their branches moved in different directions the winds would not be as likely to ‘beat’ them and damage the tree. They astatized. The branches move in seemingly random patterns that protect the branch and trunk. This breaks up the wind direction, protecting the canopy and trunk of the tree.

The Symbologist and I use the term astatize to describe the migration of symbols throughout history, a migration which astatizes; as the symbols move through cultural history, they merge, cross, separate, and grow in such a way that their base meaning is intact under the layers of associations made to them by ever-changing human culture.

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