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Sunday, January 22, 2017

Underground Communication


Deep in their roots, all flowers keep the light.”
Theodore Roethke

I have four orchid plants sitting on my kitchen counter amid the usual clutter of everyday life. They have been given to me at different times from various people; two from my friend, Isie, one from my friend, Andy, and one from the little boy next door. I'd always been told that orchids were difficult to grow, needed special attention, and specific conditions to thrive. These just sit on the counter, soak up the light from a kitchen window, and get watered once a week. They put up their bloom stalks about this time each year (when it would be summer in their native land), provide a cascade of beautiful flowers, and are no trouble at all. Two of them have loads of air roots—the tentacles orchids use to hold onto tree limbs where they normally grow, and to bring in extra nutrients from the air. The two plants I have had longest do not have air roots. I think they have come to trust that they will be watered and fed, so they don't need to waste energy by sending out loads of air roots. Call me crazy!

Forest Scientist, Suzanne Simard, in her TED talk, “How Trees Talk to Each Other,” told of her more than 30 years of research with varied species of trees growing in forests. She discovered that by way of the underground network of intersecting roots, they communicate. Through the use of carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus, water, allele chemicals, and hormones, they send extra nutrients to one anther, even though they are not the same species. Not only that, but the fungi and mushrooms that grow on forest floors put out extensive underground systems of mycelium that act as a kind of message carrier among the trees; rather like synapses in our nervous system. Trees even send out distress and defense signals to one another. Simard's work is with Douglas Fir and Paper Birch, but can be extrapolated to other forests and other tree species. There's a real cooperative, interactive community right beneath your feet.

We, too, have roots. They extend out to the people and communities that we encourage and support, and that give back to us. I would include our four legged friends in that category. Through our roots, we share nutrients of the spirit, and reach out to defend and provide for each other. When we store enough light in our roots to keep us healthy and strong, we have plenty to share with others, even with those who are different from us.

                                                      In the Spirit,


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