While it is natural for us to look up and perceive the tree from above ground, an even more impressive portion is below ground. Think of the first tree you drew, did it even have any roots? "The roots within the dripline of a tree are estimated to have 2.5 to 4.5 times more surface area than do the leaves (one side) of the tree according to Richard Harris in the Journal of Arboriculture (18:1, January 1992). More recently, it has been discovered that the ideal ratio of root to leaf surface area for photosynthesis is 10 to 1! Because most roots are veiled by a layer of soil we simply cannot properly conceive them in our minds without some serious intention. Upon closer examination we see a massive network of subterranean and superterranean organs that interfaces with the soil and mycorrhizae to absorb water, oxygen (from pore space) and minerals creating the engine for photosynthesis. Most of us know that the mushroom is simply the fleshy fruit of a huge network of roots or mycelium. Similarly, the portion of a tree above ground is the fuel to run the engine. Like us, trees are mostly water, and that water delivery system starts in the soil. A seed starts with the roots that snake through the earth absorbing water and elements to sprout the beginning of the tree above ground. For trees, our understanding of their full structure, including that below, is essential for their health. Too often, particularly in urban areas, roots are trenched, compacted, and removed without the full understanding of its impact on the whole tree. The misunderstanding is acerbated by trees' ability to store energy and live, albeit compromised, for years after the point of contact. While looking up is exhilarating, it is important to remember the heart of the mater is beneath our feet.
Spring overwhelms me. I attribute this to trees coming out of dormancy with such vibrancy. It is difficult not to notice the curtain of green envelop you, particularly on wooded lots. The green is not just overwhelming in color, but also in volume. Once wide open views become views into the color green and your vista contracts from expanse to the tree nearest to you. In the southeast, we are often exposed to this shocking transition in our surroundings as the Southeast has many, many, deciduous trees. This in opposition to the wide open vistas I grew up with in the West, so it is not surprising that my initial reaction to the spring tree phenomena is one of being closed in upon. However, having lived in the southeast for 20 years, I have been able to temper this initial reaction with one of wonder. The wonder of green, of tree's abilities to spring forth such massive amounts of energy, and simply the wonder of trees. The contraction also has the affect of turning your spirit back towards you, creating a feeling of introspection. Trees shade us, but also impose their wills into the space around us in the form of leaves and green. It is as if a waterfall of green spouts out of nowhere and immerses you into it as if you were swimming in a lake. I take this annual rite for what it is, and try to swim and splash within it without the panic of losing the vista around me.
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