Monday, March 30, 2009

The Fallen Tree

A second tree has fallen-- a victim of the strong winds, bad soil, poor grounding, or unseen root-rot. It rests side-by-side with the first, pointed diagonally eastward alongside the other. Like two fallen soldiers shot down in battle, the broken branches crumpled beneath the weight of the trunk. The dirt-covered root system lies barren and exposed.

The decline becomes more obvious through the years. Needles become sparse or turn brown earlier in the season. The tree no longer looks as lush and full as the neighboring ones even though they are the same age. You begin to wonder why this particular tree isn't thriving. Why suddenly it seems inflicted with some malady responsible for its slow disintegration, the first sign of distress, a call for rescue. Maybe, it had been planted poorly, placed in an environment not natural to it. Perhaps, it thrived for a number of years before a lack of water, some vital nutrient or foreign critter arrived to wreak havoc. Rooted to the place where it was planted, the tree has no means to pick up and move to a friendlier place. It has to survive where it is placed or realize its eventual demise. Root bound, the movement it enjoys is either growth upward or around itself. Without outside intervention at a young age, it must make due as best it can where planted. It is rooted, attached to within the limited confines of place. A tree cannot seek a change of scenery.

If it is lucky, it lives perhaps decades or even hundreds of years if not damaged by lightening or the environment. If weakened, eventually, a strong wind comes and the tenuous root system meant to hold the massive trunk and strong branches into place weakens to the point where it can no longer hold nature had designed. It is its own micro-environment, one in which other plants, animals, and insects live on and through it. It is a life support for others beyond the root system from where it reaches out. It is its own stabilizing force. It shields and protects those beneath it. With time, the bark which protects it--the skin of it--is stripped away. It can heal itself, but bears those scars as notches in wood. The rings show its age, the years it has both stood, and withstood, in time. Trees have a stability that we come to expect. We know them to stand where placed and to thrive. We rely on a tree to be there strong against time and the elements. When a tree falls, the landscape is forever altered, stability tested, perception changed.

The tree tells the story of the basis of its life,
telling it the way it knows it to be.

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