Roots

roots2 If you leave a human, a dog, and a chimpanzee on a deserted island, who stands the best chance of survival? Odds are the human will have the most difficult time surviving.  So many other species are much more capable of enduring harsh conditions on their own. And yet humans have managed to thrive on this planet.  What gives humans the edge they seem to have?

This week I learned the largest living organism on the planet is a Pando…no, not Panda. Pando, Latin for “I spread,” is an expansive grove of quaking aspens.  Aspens multiply asexually through their roots and colonize large areas through a shared root system. Because they all share the same genetic makeup, they’re often referred to as clones.  A 106-acre grove of 47,000 trees in Richfield, Utah, all originated from one single male parent aspen (Nace, 2018).  The strength of the aspen comes from its community root, giving it incredible longevity. The Bristlecone Pines in Utah is the oldest known aspen “clone” and is over 80,000 years old (Ettema, 2014).

Redwoods are another great example of the strength provided by a community. These giant trees have very shallow roots, only about six feet deep.  Those shallow roots spread widely, however, and intertwine with the roots of others of its species giving the trees almost supernatural stability (The Redwood Forest and the Role of Water, n.d.).   These giants standing over 300 feet tall endure raging winds and other severe conditions.

Back to our deserted island scenario . . . what if instead of dropping off a single human, we unload a community of humans? Now odds makers would definitely recalculate the probability of survival.  Humans survive as community…humans THRIVE as community.

In these times we admire the independent hero who ventures out on her own. We view individualism as a strength and tout our ability to “MAKE IT” without any help.  But we can’t make it without help. We need one another. We are like the aspens and the redwoods. When humans acknowledge a common root and accept the need to intertwine in such a way to hold each other in violent storms, they don’t just endure, they flourish, succeed, evolve – they RISE.  Humans can only truly soar when they are rooted in community.

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References

Ettema, H. (2014, March 21). Tree Profile: Aspen – So Much More Than a Tree. Retrieved from National Forests: https://www.nationalforests.org/blog/tree-profile-aspen-so-much-more-than-a-tree

Nace, T. (2018, October 18). The World’s Largest Organism, Pando, Is Dying. Retrieved from Forbes Magazine: https://www.forbes.com/sites/trevornace/2018/10/18/the-worlds-largest-organism-pando-is-dying/#141dc81d5554

The Redwood Forest and the Role of Water. (n.d.). Retrieved from Exploring the Eel River Valley: sunnyfortuna.com/explore/redwoods_and_water.htm

 

 

 

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Butterfly Navigation Systems

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Monarch and Queen on Zinnia taken in Voca

October saw the beauty of migration.  What seemed like millions of monarchs floated overhead on their long journey to Mexico.  They were like feathers on the wind, so graceful.  I am always astonished at how such seemingly fragile creatures can endure so much and travel so far.

I wondered how far they actually travel and found this record:  “A tagged male monarch (Danaus plexippus), released by Donald A. Davis (Canada) at Presqu’ile provincial Park near Brighton, Ontario, Canada, on 10 September 1988, was recaptured on 8 April 1989 in Austin, Texas, U.S.A., travelling an estimated 2880 miles, making this the World’s Longest Butterfly Migration according to the Guinness World Records Ltd (Davis, 2005)

 But usually a single monarch doesn’t make the entire trip.  Monarch butterflies may take as many as five generations to make it from Mexico to southern Canada and back again (Main, 2013).  Each generation is made up of four distinct life cycles – that’s 20 separate states of being.  

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Which came first the monarch or the egg?  (The Science of monarchs)

 So, this is where it gets spiritual for me.  Somehow the knowledge of the journey gets passed not from one monarch to another but through an evolution of existences.  There is a ONENESS…from the butterfly to the egg to the caterpillar to the chrysalis to the butterfly.  Five monarchs, five times in an egg, five caterpillars, and five times in chrysalis:  the journey just continues.  Is it really five different monarchs making the trip or the spirit of one monarch just trying on new outfits along the way?

And then I think about the swarms of monarchs making the trip…this knowledge…this “TRUTH” is within each of them.  I don’t know how they share it or how they hear it, but they all just KNOW.  Could the swarm of butterflies really be part of a greater being…all butterflies are truly one? 

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In the Elm Tree across the Creek from my House

 

What is this monarch navigation system? How quiet the mind of a monarch must be to hear this mystical guide!

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Sunning in the field

I was on the phone for an hour Saturday with somebody I dearly love. It’s funny because I NEVER talk on the phone…nonetheless for an hour. We talked about how we both suffer from relentless voices in our heads…there is never quiet…never space.  The voices drive us and push us in directions we think we SHOULD go.  We hear the directions society, our parents, our bosses, our lovers believe we should go.  They chatter, like multiple GPS guidance systems talking at once, constantly recalculating new routes.

I believe that like the monarchs, we don’t need a GPS. I think we are all born with monarch navigation systems that gently whisper the directions.  But the voice is gentle, never forceful.  So, I must learn to quiet my mind to truly hear.  I know there is a whisper for me…I can feel the loving call.  I just have to be quiet enough to hear.

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I constantly try to photograph the butterflies in flight…this was closest I got that day

References

Davis, D. (2005, September). Meet Canadian Naturalist. Retrieved from Journey North: https://journeynorth.org/tm/monarch/DavisDonBio.html

Main, D. (2013, August 13). Monarch butterflies may take five generations to migrate to US . Retrieved from NBC News: https://www.nbcnews.com/sciencemain/monarch-butterflies-may-take-five-generations-migrate-us-6C10910055

The Science of monarchs. (n.d.). Retrieved from Chautauqua Bird Tree and Garden Club: https://www.chautauquabtg.org/life-cycle-anatomy/

 

 

 

 

Lesson One: Watermelon

The Art of Watermelon
A neighbor gave us a watermelon after Barry put out a small fire for him. I should have photographed it. But I saw it and that memory is preserved. The watermelon existed for a moment the way we all do, I suppose. Art and beauty once created, are like truth. They can never be undone. And I think maybe like we and the watermelon are like art, beauty, and truth.
Anyway, I cut it up to put it in Tupperware (well Gladdware or whatever it’s called) and Winnie came begging. That dog will eat anything! Of course, Cupcake had to try it too but she immediately spit her piece on the floor. Don’t worry – nothing was wasted. Winnie swooped right in. I guess not everybody appreciates watermelon the same way.
I marveled at the smell and texture of the melon – the way the hard, thick rind housed such a delicate fruit that literally melts under pressure. Again I thought about how much I have in common with that melon.
I chopped the rind into small pieces. Before I sat down to enjoy my treat, I wanted to give the cows their treat. Pretty cow met me at the gate. She recognizes the grey bucket. She’s getting so old. She’s 23 now and actually calved last year. She has no teeth but she can gum up some watermelon rind. All the other girls came too, but Pretty Cow is Alpha Cow and gets the best of the best.
I have to brag – she’s so intelligent. A piece was on the ground and I pointed to it. Area 51 Cow and #68 both tried to bite my pointing finger but Pretty Cow actually looked at the place to which I pointed.
I came home, washed cow slobber off my hands and arms and sat down with my melon. I decided this was a chance to really practice mindfulness. I would sit in silence and savor my food. I don’t think I ever really tasted watermelon – not TRULY tasted. I tend to scarf food. Maybe it’s some primordial instinct – eat it all before the others come. But I settled into the safety of my couch and slowly savored each bit. I smelled it. I looked at it. I ate it. My hunger and thirst were both satiated, but something even deeper felt satisfied…I felt alive and safe. I felt unhurried. I didn’t have to think about anything but the melon. I think I felt “mindfulness.” So this was Lesson One. A simple lesson but it’s a good start for the journey.
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Pretty about 13 years ago…