Ethics

Roots Are Not Wood & Trees Are Communities of Water: What the Future Promises in the Fire Forest

300 years of Douglas-fir Root

This root may be exposed and, to all appearances, dead, yet it still holds up an old Douglas-fir into the sky.

It’s the third one to the left of the centre of the image, on the crest of the esker.

But that’s not the true beauty of it. I mean, look at it.

Wood has straight grains, and this root, here hundreds of years old, is like a map of the land itself, or like water, flowing in eddies, oxbows and channels around points of compression, extending in waves rather than reaching fingers or lines. Wood doesn’t do that. Wood a hundred years older (or more) does this:

Note the annual rings, now long bars of wood, and the pithy fibre between them. This is wood that lives in long cycles, not just annual rings of straight fibres pouring up against gravity to the pull of the straight beams of the sun (to make beams herself). In other words, this is wood, but it’s sure not lumber.

Beautiful, though.

Here’s something to consider: the straight fibres of wood draw water from the looping pools of the roots as they work around stones and give it to the sky, yet when the tree falls the long, slow decay of its fibres holds water, which is released to her sister trees in times of drought. In other words, rather than flowing, she pools or, if you like, holds. That’s what trees do. When we have learned to prosper on this land rather than mining it for lumber, we will have learned to model our society on these principles. If we fall a tree then, we will know what to replace. Planting a young tree is not the answer. It will burn.

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