I am a builder; I love to build!

Mother Tree

This is mother tree.

She is about 3' at the base and I estimate she is about 130' tall. Lightning has taken her crown probably 50 years in the past. She's not the biggest or the most beautiful, but she is likely bordering 400 years old. In recent years a German forester, Peter Wohlleben (you can find him at smithsonianmag.com), has been talking about trees in a new way. His ideas are controversial and causing some backlash. His suggestion is that trees are NOT the independent loaners as we have been taught, but are instead a cooperative band. It is likely that this mother tree I speak of has helped countless young trees get a start. She has a firm hold and a solid root structure on the dry creek. She can send nutrition, sugar, minerals... to a tree which hasn't yet been able to reach the light. The evidence is that tree's root systems are connected, not just intertwined, and that the trees are cooperative with the fungi. The fungi get sugar in exchange for minerals and other nutrients the tree cannot make. The trees communicate through pheromones and send distress signals to their brethren when a deer is munching a young one, or insects are having their way. 

It may make short term financial sense to clear cut the forest, but it does not make long term financial sense. Selectively logging preserves the nursery. It supports the water being properly cleaned, it holds the top soil in place. It preserves the mycorrhizal structure which supports many other creatures in the soil which in turn supports us, forward, sustainably, for all time. 

I introduce you to this tree I call mother tree as this is a touchstone for me. This tree is grounding; and grounding helps me meet the stupid things which are going on around me, like excess plastics use. It also feels great to smell mother tree. Her smell inspires joy.

I am a builder; I have personally cut down hundreds of trees of all types, and been agent in cutting down 1,000 more. I love to build. I love good wood which has clear grain and meets the weather and the load well. I love the space that a family occupies as they grow and change. My heart lifts to see a spot worn smooth by 100,000 light contacts... 

And I have watched my lumber decline and decline and decline. I am now asking why at a deeper level. Is this the only way? Decline? Use it up? Walk away for a millennia? What about the 7 generations view? What if my family stewarded our 40 acres of redwoods and fir carefully and took only the right ones, for a premium price? Would we not then have a forest always, for my grandchildren's grand children?

And mother tree leans over, she was reaching for the light 335 years ago. And now she's old. She's bent, but she serves. And this service is an inspiration. 

I am advocating asking these questions; what happens if we slow things down and operate at a different pace? What happens if a house is built to last? There are German houses I admire which have been continuously occupied for 800 years. The walls are a mixture of wood and straw and clay. The R value exceeds 30 in the walls, and 45 in the ceiling. The clay mitigates rot and the straw gives and takes humidity to moderate the internal environment. Homes in Rio Rancho near Albuquerque built 20 years ago are already falling down. Wouldn't it be better to build a house 1/2 the size that lasted 150 years instead of 20?

It strikes me that we are in some kind of insane habit loop... how to arrest it?

I'm asking...?


And thank you dear reader for having a look!