Roots: Part I

When do roots do more then nourish and support?

When are they stumbling blocks?

What do they tell us about what’s going on underground?

Are they beautiful? Or more than that?

I pondered these questions during our recent hiking trip to the Rocky Mountains in Alberta Canada. We marveled at roots burrowing into narrow crevices to eke out nutrients.

Small tree growing up the side of cliff, exposed roots spreading across the surface of the rock
At Johnson Canyon, Banff National Park

We stepped over and around roots intruding into our hiking paths, sometimes buckling the earth in their quest for growth

We hiked around beautiful, large roots that did all of the above: buckled the ground and intruded into our pathway as they sought nourishment in stark environments.

On the Valley of the Five Lakes Trail, Jasper, Alberta

The roots spoke to me of tenacity.

The never-give-up attitude was helpful on the steeps of the trails, and it is helpful to me now that I’m back home and looking at long to-do lists.

They made me wonder what’s happening underground that I can’t see.

I am currently reading Underland by Robert Macfarlane, a book that explores the ground under our feet as a new frontier, like space or the oceans. As I stepped over the large roots and trod carefully around the smaller intertwining ones so as not to twist an ankle, I imagined life teeming in unseen ways under my feet: worms, burrowing animals, microbes, and tree roots co-existing in another realm.

The work of Canadian forest ecologist Suzanne Simard explores how trees interact with each other, healing, sharing, communicating underground through an “underground social network,” or a “wood wide web.”

It makes me want to become a worm for a day or two so I could periscope into the earth for a look around.

But I’m stuck here above land, and from where I stand the roots have a tenacious beauty. Even the ones that now longer reach for nutrients or buckle the ground.

Large driftwood tree stump lying on a shoreline - upturned roots extending into the air.

8 thoughts on “Roots: Part I

  1. marianbeaman

    I agree about the tenacious beauty of roots. They speak of grounded-ness and stability. I especially appreciated my own roots as I wrote memoir.

    Thanks for sharing your photos of Banff. I bought a purple sweat shirt with the words BANFF stitched across it when we visited there a long time ago. I wonder if I still have it. Hmmmm!

  2. earthwalking13

    Great post ! I was out in the Redwoods this summer, and truly amazed by how the forest grew – new growth on top of old, the roots wrapping themselves around the trees that had fallen – supporting and nourishing. At another stop, a solitary tree emerged from the center of a boulder – what power to survive. Eventually, the roots of that tree will shatter that boulder – so many good parallels and analogies 🙂

    1. Arlene Somerton Smith Post author

      The power to survive really is amazing. As I looked at the one tree growing on the side of the steep cliff, its roots exposed to the elements, I wondered how old it was. It looked like a young tree but it could have been quite old given the limited resources it would have been able to draw from the rock. Amazing.

  3. Malinda

    Amen! What a great message♥️ Love the beautiful photos as well. We live in the Bay Area, and love going to the redwood forests. Blessings to you🥰


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