Pando - The Trembling Giant
A lot was happening in the 8th millinneum. Ours is not the first global warming. In 8,000 BC glaciers were melting, and oceans rising. Homo-sapiens flourished in this new environ, with many groups transitioning from hunter-gatherers to agriculture. Their success was so great as to push their rivals, Neanderthal and Homo eructus into extinction, but the Fertile Crescent is not where our story takes place. Ours is the incredible tale of a life that has spanned the age of man.
It was at this same time, away across the globe, that a wildfire happened on the side of a mountain in what is now Utah. After the fire, in the scorched and barren earth that remained, a seed was dropped by a clueless deer in the usual way. This seed was not extraordinary as far as seeds go. It only did what every seed does; it created a miracle, this miracle being an aspen tree, a Quaking Aspen, to be exact, named for the way it’s leaves tremble in even the slightest breath of wind.
This aspen did what any aspen would do; it grew straight, and tall... but not deep. Instead it’s roots spread outward, rarely burrowing more than 15″ below the surface. And from these roots came shoots, which created new trees, and more roots with even more trees, until soon the burn became an entire meadow of beautiful, light green shoots stretching themselves up the hillside, and towards the sun.
As these shoots grew they became a grove. The grove thinned and pruned itself as it grew, selecting the healthiest shoots to continue growing upward while also remaining a part of the root system created from our first, lonely aspen tree. But with all of that, this grove of aspens remains a single organism, a root system growing underground with it’s lungs breathing above. Hundress and thousands of trees have come and gone through the years, including that first one, but the root mass continued growing through it all, and continued creating new shoots, and it continued to thrive through all manners of goings on across the globe, floods, freezes... and even fires.
More than one hundred times through the milinnia the grove has burned, but the roots survived underground. And after each of those one hundred times, with the cooling of the earth new shoots appear, and new meadows of light green, and finally new clone trees picked and positioned just so, so as to further the survival of the grove.
For eighty-thousand years now this single grove, the largest living being on the planet, has sent oxygen into the air, and steadied the slopes of a mountain. It has given it’s bark to a million deer and bear and other hungry creatures when snows cover the grass. It’s limbs are home to birds, raccoons, squirrels, and spiders, it’s flesh to beetles, borers, and their larvae. The old man has died a thousand deaths, but still it lives, and breathes, and grows.
And when families drive past on Highway 25, they might comment on the pretty patch of lighter green shimmering amongst the darker conifers, or they might not notice it at all.
The hunter in the tangled thicket looked out through bloodshot eyes at the forest clearing before he ran toward his prey. He felt his anger boiling up from his cauldron of festering rage. Why did his father dislike him so much that his only childhood memories were of beatings and scathing remarks? He still had the scars that his father had inflicted. Even his mother hadn’t wanted him. Sometimes, she even sent him to bed without supper for no reason at all. Now that he was no longer a child, he could finally get back at all those who had caused him grief. His world was a dark, foreboding place as he tried to keep his escalating insanity in check.
A young woman was kneeling on the yellowed grass in the open space, picking wild strawberries and humming a little melody. Why should she be happy when he was so miserable? He took careful aim with his rifle, imagining she was a rabbit, and shot her in the back. She moaned as she flailed her limbs, trying to survive as she gasped her last breath.
The huntsman smiled to himself as he pondered his name, Chase. It was such an appropriate name for one who preyed on others. Running over to his young victim, he prodded her with his rifle but she didn’t budge. He wiped the saliva from his toothless mouth, slung her over his back, and headed back into the forest to the little dingy cabin where he lived.
“Ma! Pa!” he yelled, still trying to attain their approval after all this time. “Here’s another one for the barbie! Stoke up the grill!”
Day and Night
The forest is, and always has been a mysterious and mystical place. However this may change with the position of the sun or the phases of the moon.
In the day, when the sun is at it's highest, light peeks through the treetops and the air is warm and comforting. Wind greets all with a welcoming presence, the plants feel inviting, animals may hide or scurry away but it is all well in the kingdom of day. There is always a faint hum of life brought with the sun, and even any dangers seem calmed by it's soothing rays.
However when the night invades the kingdom, all things change. When the sun stops peering through trees, instead making way for the soft moonlight barely illuminating whatever path one may be taking, all becomes quiet. Oh so quiet. Too quiet to be peaceful. The kind of silence that makes it so every gust of chilling wind and every footstep of either human or creature is heard. Deafening silence. The harmless become threatening, the dangerous become deadly. And only the moon bears witness to the danger between the trees.
The forest as I’ll pick your own adventure
This is a game, and in this game no one lies. Close your eyes, ignore the sounds of your neighbour through the wall, of the cosmopolitan passer-by sailing past your street. You are alone now. All you have is my voice guiding you. Let it.
There are trees around you, rising tall, ferns at your feet. The trees are evergreen, you cannot see where they end and the sky begins. You hear the whisper of the wind through pine needles and the crunch of your boots on the path. Even your breath is quiet. Do not make another sound, lest you feel that split-second terror as you realise the forest might be an anechoic chamber.
You feel the ground sloping upwards, and you pass what looks like the entry to an old minefield. A door surrounded by bluish slate, which moss has begun to prowl through. The incline grows steeper, and the path becomes nothing more than roots and nettles.
It is path made by the broken bramble bushes pushed back by hordes of deer. Be careful not to step too close, they will catch and tear your clothes.
Don't be afraid of that, though. There are wild boars in this forest. The only thing to do should you come face to face with one is take a gentle step back. If you run, the boar could catch you, if you threaten, the boar will kill you. It has happened before, to others who did not follow my voice well enough.
You notice bushes of gooseberries in the distance, still gleaming with morning dew. The land is deep green, rich and wet. Life can thrive here. On your left is freshly dug earth, where boars have scavenged mushrooms and grass.
At the top of the path that was not a path, you meet a mother boar. She has her young by her side and she looks at you with fear and fury. What do you do?
Back down through the bramble bushes, and you hear her trotters pounding the earth behind you—or is that just the sound of your own weak heart? Keep running. There is a stone and you are not running carefully enough not to catch your ankle on it. This is a game, and in this game, everyone dies.
cool, lush and green.
where the wild things grow and the free things run.
the wind rushing through the trees, and the air whishing past ears ever alert and ready for any sound to reach them.
there is peace in the unknown, calm and collected.
silence rushes over everything like a thick blanket, with the occasional rush of the wind piercing it sharply, but it soon settles again. back into the silent covering that rests above the trees.
the holes of light slipping through the leaves, spilling out onto the ground.
illuminating the floor, covered with sticks, and dirt.
the birds chirping up above singing a chorus of the beauty of the wood, causing one to look up, only to see the sun spilling out over the leaves once again
King of the Firs
“Be like the Douglas Fir.”
My father and I were walking the two mile trail to Dog Lake. A hike so familiar, I knew every muddy rut and boulder along the way. It led over a couple of densely forested ridges to a dammed up creek which formed a beaver pond. No one knew exactly how it got named Dog Lake, but the popular theory was someone’s dog found it when they were exploring many years ago. It certainly wasn’t big enough to be considered a lake, but the fishing was excellent.
Several different species of trout called it home and we caught our supper there often. The fish weren’t the biggest, but each one was big enough to make a meal when eaten with a baked potato roasted in the coals of a campfire.
“Why should I be like that tree?” I was reading the little plaque on a steel pole driven into the ground at its roots.
“It’s a survivor.” Dad said.
“I can read that. It says it’s one of the old ones. One of the ones that lived through two forest fires and helped to spread the seed for the younger Douglas Firs in this forest.”
“Do you know why?”
I shook my head no, but I guessed, “Because it’s the biggest one?”
“Well, that’s partly right. The biggest Douglas Firs have very thick bark. A thick skin that protects them even if it gets charred and burned. Even if some of its tiny needles get singed and a few of its branches burn, its heart is protected.”
He pointed at a deep scar on the side of the tree where resin welled through it. A beam of sunshine lit it up and we could see the wall of bark containing the pale honey of a tree’s life blood. Dad climbed up on one of the arched roots and put his hand beside it to demonstrate. He could have sunk his hand into it right up to his wrist. He stood there for a few minutes, his hand on the craggy striated black outer shell of the trunk.
“Were you talking to the tree?” I sensed his communion with the ancient living monolith.
“I was, I was saying thank you for staying alive. I love the evergreens.”
“I know, we have lots of them in our yard.” One of them, the blue spruce that grew from a small twig I was given on Arbor day at school . The last time I saw it, many decades later, it towered over our old house almost eighty feet tall, swaying in the Chinook wind.
“If we kill the forests, we kill the lungs of the planet. Do you remember your science class? Photosynthesis? It’s why Mom has so many plants in our house, and why I plant new trees around it all the time.”
“I remember, we just studied it. Carbon dioxide in, oxygen out. Trees and plants make our atmosphere breathable and keep the balance so things don’t get too hot or cold.” I grinned at being able to pull the explanation out of my memory.
“But there’s more to it than a thick skin that can take being turned black in a forest fire.” He jumped down and we started walking again.
“What else?” I asked.
“Strong roots that run deep. After a fire, or if a branch tears off because of a storm, they keep the nutrients running through the tree to help it repair the injury and make strong scars.” He stopped a few yards down the trail to point up the side of the tree.
Two big burls boiled out of the trunk, their irregular shape roughly like that of an upside down bowl, although I’d never seen one quite the size of them.
“It takes energy and time to heal a wound of such depth. In times of drought, deep roots can reach ground water when other plants with shallower roots simply wilt and dry.”
“So if a tree were a person, patience and courage would be part of it’s core,” I said. I was eleven, and I caught the underlying lessons in what he was saying.
Dad’s blue grey eyes met mine, and I saw something unfathomable pass through them as he nodded and reached over to squeeze my shoulder. He ran his fingers through his beard, and I knew there was something about this moment that had touched him. He pulled me into his arms and gave me a hug, and I realized my face was against his chest. When had I grown this tall?
“Let’s go catch those fish,” he suggested.
“Yeah, let’s,” I agreed.
We continued on the path, our fishing poles in one hand, dodging the puddles the recent rain shower had left behind.
The Forest of Falia
Snow layered over everything. Myths, stories, tales bubbled around the forest.
Falia was a lost continent. One not like Atlantis. Just meadows, grass, and trees.
Magic waas it's roots. The happiness that once was there vanished.
there is a place I go to unwind
where there are many trees
some are in groves
some are moss covered
or surrounded by a field of flowers
where natures at place
you can enjoy the day
just breathe in the air
let go of your cares
renew your spirit
thank a forest