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.