Archives for December 2011

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A Defining Absence

The roots were absent but you could still see them. When the tree has died and it’s time to clear the land, it’s easier to burn what’s left but when you burn a stump, you often end up with a chunk of its heart that doesn’t turn to ash. The interesting thing is how the fire always seems to follow the roots, no matter how far they go, burning away every trace of them. Sometimes, even a year later, a fire can rekindle from deep in the earth where it was banked in some hidden location. Looking down from above, you can see the faithful reproduction of the root system but it’s really the absence of the roots. Hollows that disappear into the ground, holding the shape of what used to live there, faithfully mimicking the form of the living organism that, let’s face it, was only using the ground as support and to pull nutrients and moisture to sustain itself. I suppose some people have relationships like that. Where they’re left with nothing but a deep-running void that marks the presence of something that once considered them essential to existence. Sometimes those winding cavities collapse. Sometimes they’re filled by something else. Sometimes it just stays that way. A wound open to the world. An odd puzzle for anyone who happens to run across it while wandering in the woods.

Those missing root systems rarely trouble me. There’s always new ground for a seedling to cultivate. I seem to stumble over the ones that are still living. The ones that are greedy for space. Pushing up through sidewalks, shifting underground piping, cracking foundations. All in their need to force themselves closer to the sun. Unwilling to cede space to another thing, living or dead, and blocking the light from reaching what they’ve left behind. If you can bring yourself to do it and if you have the tools, you can cut the tree down. A word of warning: be careful where it falls. It can cause a lot of collateral damage on its way down and its roots go deep. I’ve taken a poorly sharpened axe to a tree like that and over time – so much time – I brought it down. With even more time the memory of that tree outside your window will fade as sunlight chases the shadows across the room but when it’s time to turn the ground for a new planting? It’s a harsh surprise when the shovel hits nothing but the hardened gnarled roots left behind.

One thing is true, though: life is resilient. I’ve seen a pine cone fall to the top of a boulder and somehow, in a small depression on that unyielding surface, a seed will grow. Buffeted by the wind and unable to sink its roots in deep but sustaining itself through small gifts of rain and wind-blown earth. The rock seems unaffected and unaware of that which clings so desperately to it in an effort to thrive and if the seedling is torn away, it leaves a raw spot, almost like tender new skin. If they’re both lucky, the tree continues to grow and its roots slowly scrape away at the hard surface until the stone has given – or had taken – enough of itself to become a safe harbor and a strong foundation. On occasion, unexpectedly, the seedling becomes a tree. Its roots can exert such force and its will to grow is so strong that the rock cracks and gives way, its heart exposed.

 

Creative Commons License
A Defining Absence by kayemnic is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Story genesis: Six Minute Story

quote

A Pause Before Motion Resumes

The hillsides have been finger-painted
with Larch trees turning yellow
like smears from a child’s hand
that Mother Nature will bleach away within the month

I stare, thinking there must be a pattern to it.
Birds eating seeds from cones and dropping them in flight?
Early colonizers after a fire?
Unwilling to believe in beauty without structure and reason

Dusk arrives with its gift of quiet
As if hosting it here in this small moment of time required payment.
A perfect instant of stillness
before I turn to go inside and life’s motions begin again

 

 

Creative Commons License
A Pause Before Motion Resumes is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Originally created at Six Minute Story