“They are to be called terebinths of integrity” (Isaiah 61: 3)
Haven’t we always known the trees are talking to each other, the touch of roots reaching out, leaf whispers just loud enough for us to almost understand a language camouflaged like tiny trout wavering steady just above the pebbles in a shallow stream.
Terebinths are Mediterranean, its moods and colors–that blue we expect; the shiny green of spring leaves paired pinnate as if wings, four to six feathers conjoined, filtering light; the full summer purple-red of berries–deep wine or maybe the universal color of blood; and yes, that pale earth tone of winter’s bare limbs, bone-stark trunk.
Hub trees, mother trees, some forty feet high, spread their canopy over seedlings growing in the understory, a community narrative botanists, ecologists, disguise as photosynthesis, microscopic fungi–hyphae, mycelium, mycorrhizal network of trees nurturing their young, their neighbors, threading nutrients to the diverse, vibrant community, sharing excess water, nitrogen, to suffering trees, warnings to up defense enzymes against, say, the mountain pine beetle, a forest conflagration, Coronavirus COVID-19, any invasive species, damaging agent–boastful, arrogant, insolent tyrant disrupting this network of salvation, refusing justice to the unfortunate, cheating the poor, preying on widows, robbing the orphan (Isaiah 10: 1-2).
Haven’t we always known mother trees, when injured or dying, send messages to the next generation of seedlings–a wisdom of increased resistance, a sharing of resources with the community, its diverse, vibrant, below-ground web
comforting all who mourn,
giving them for ashes a garland,
for mourning robe the oil of gladness,
for despondency, praise. (Isaiah 61: 3)
Let us lie down, one ear pressed to mother earth, listen to the network of roots, fine fungi entwining tree to tree like a brother coming to the rescue of his smaller brother on a playground of bullies, a city neighborhood abandoned to its own devices–the collaboration of trees, their green consolation.
*Works Consulted, Cited:
Biblical passages from the book of Isaiah are from The Jerusalem Bible, Doubleday & Company, 1966.
Details about Terebinth trees are from Matthew George Easton, “Entry for Terebinth,” Easton’s Bible Dictionary on line: https://www.biblestudytools.com/dictionary/terebinth/
My source for how trees collaborate is from NPR’s TED Radio Hour, interview of Suzanne Simard by Guy Raz–“How Do Trees Collaborate?” January 13, 2017, https://www.npr.org/transcripts/509350471, rebroadcast June 26, 2020, https://www.npr.org/2020/06/26/882828756/suzanne-simard-how-do-trees-collaborate.