A brook sweetly babbled a tinkling melody, drawing us in. Wandering a bit deeper into the open woods revealed a handful of trees growing a good bit apart, often with less mature trees (a hundred years old?) several paces from their trunks, unable to grow beneath the shade of their crowns. The stout trunks on some of the elders had arching old limbs sometimes spreading near-vertical, close to the ground, revealing a very slow, undisturbed aging.
What one could feel underfoot was as amazing as the above-ground inhabitants. Nurtured over hundreds of human lifetimes, the soft bed upon which we gently stepped was moist, lush, and literally covered in moss and ferns. Beneath this dense and chromatic green quilt, were deep layers of dark peat and soil. Generations of green forest and solid wood for millennia had thrived in harmony; then, in a perfectly synchronized ultra-slow symphony, first leaves, twigs, occasional limbs, then whole trees had let go of their desire to reach the sun and returned to the earth. Naturally decomposing they fed the next generation, in a continuing cycle. We were passing through like lost ants; human time felt irrelevant.
Though not the largest of trees, the presence within this small copse of wood, especially beneath the grandest of the old ones was palpable. The space beneath them exuded a quiet majesty. The oxygen-rich air, the effect of on the eyes of greens in all directions (barely able to be hinted at in photos), the scent of the damp process of composting, the misty veils enveloping and hugging us, the hushing of the mosses and millions of ferns, all were part of the magical elixir of our brief experience here, in being — no, briefly becoming — participants in this great wonder.
We are so able to be moved, restored by it, yet mostly now seem so callously desensitized to this incredible energetic exchange. It’s been important for us to identify types of plants, gain knowledge of species, practical uses, and to a degree catalogue life forms on the earth. However, as Brendan mentioned, we finally are beginning to come full circle, understand trees and indeed, all growth in a wood, not as individual plants, but rather as supportive families, relatives living in proximity. Similarly, all ecosystems. It seems to me a logical extension to relate this notion to the barely shifting, yet ever evolving geological structure on which plants grow, as well as the comparatively exponentially rapidly shifting skies as extended relatives in this incredible commune of life on this planet. To continue to consider our selves apart from this extraordinary community feels tragic in every way. To embrace our small yet crucial role WITHIN it feels evermore critical, vitalizing and joyous.