Rooted in Darkness
Underground, in the dark, the roots of trees join with fungi to form mycorrhizal networks. These networks, some larger than any other organism on Earth, including blue whales, form cooperative communities. Trees of many species link together, nourish each other, alert the others to danger, share defense strategies. Trees in sunnier spots photosynthesize extra sugar and share it through their roots to trees in deep shade. Trees close to water send fluids to trees in dry places. Fungi break down minerals in the soil and offer them in exchange for carbohydrates.
Humans, too, are hard-wired to live in community, sharing companionship, resources, stories, protection. That’s how we have survived as a species.
Dividing humans into individual and nuclear family units, separate from all other species and the Earth, goes against our nature. Joined, we have power, connection, compassion. These qualities threaten dominant economic and political systems. So those systems, and the people who control and maintain them, indoctrinate us to rely only on ourselves, our immediate kin, and others who look and sound most like us. They split us apart by force, when necessary.
To find the light of hope in our current world-wide crisis, we can look underground, deep in the dark. The trees give us oxygen, soothe stress, clear pollutants from air and water, stabilize soil, sequester carbon, and cool the heat that threatens to overwhelm the Earth. Trees can also be our teachers. As we touch their roots, we join a neural network, an underground internet, that transmits wisdom as well as water and sugar. Our brilliant human brains are too small and flawed to comprehend wholeness by ourselves. The forests, gifted and patient, wait for us to know them for what they are: universities of sustainability.
This Winter Solstice, as you experience the longest, deepest darkness of the year, listen to the trees, in whatever way works for you. Take some action, however small, to strengthen your connection to community: share resources if you have extra, ask for help if you need it, acknowledge vulnerability and receive support, provide support where you can. Our human forests are vibrant, diverse, and threatened, like the trees.
We nourish our roots in darkness so that we can stretch up into the sunlight when it returns.