The Lorenzo readings are held on the east coast of Canada. I have just returned home from delivering the Lorenzo de Medici lecture at the University of New Brunswick in Saint. John.
This maritime city is perched up on ancient grey rocks, the tailings of the Appalachian system. The homes stare out to sea. The inhabitants can hear but not witness the sea because of fog. This rolls in and makes the Atlantic only a belief system. What is to be believed is the race track in front of the city. This mudflat sees the miracle of 14 meter tides and then some, when the moon feels fit to really frighten civil society.
On the face of our living planet, New Brunswick is important. It is the nose of nature. The land holds the mantle of a north temperate forest and is surrounded by the strong brine of an exceptional sea. Because of the cold winters the landscape bleeds a constant source of fresh water into this surrounding sea.
The stage is set for one of those astonishing miracles of nature: a theatre of natural delight.
The rock of this part of Canada is rich in iron. The sea is not. All of the creatures of the sea need iron from the smallest species of algae, to the sea mammals’ circulation. In sea water iron rules the roost for procreation and when it arrives, fertility follows. The sea, with its iron, holds a great debt to the land for its giving.
The story is like a fairy tale. The leaves of all the trees of all of the forests of New Brunswick, especially the deciduous broad leaves, like maple, fall in the autumn. These shadow leaves without their colour lay on the ground as debris. Snow and ice cover them during the winter months. On the first days of spring the fallen leaves react to the heat of the sun and begin to decay. They produce the humic acid of good forest soil.
Humic acid is a major component of humus. Its colour chemistry is similar to the skin of the human body. With spring rains humic acid gets moving into streams, lakes and rivers. The watershed of the Saint John river is enormous. The humic acid attracts iron from the ground as it travels and couples it into a complex. This humic acid, laden with iron, traveling in fresh water finally hits and enters the sea. This meeting of fresh water and salt water becomes a doorway for biodiversity of marine plant species. This is the feeding foundation of the ocean. These are the marine meadows for underwater life, even for the whales.
So the forest holds hands with the sea. And New Brunswick has both in plenty. And so…the sea is rich with life. The sun feeds the New Brunswick forest which in turn feeds the New Brunswick seas and the result has been around for thousands of years and we all benefit from this. But this fairy tale is almost over. Please wake up…another 8% of this ancient forest is due to be cut…