“When the lateral roots of two Douglas-firs run into each other underground, they fuse. Through those self-grafted knots, the two trees join their vascular systems together and become one. Networked together underground by countless thousands of miles of living fungal threads, her trees feed and heal each other, keep their young and sick alive, pool their resources and metabolites into community chests.”
This quote from Richard Powers’ The Overstory, paints a vivid portrait of the interconnectedness of trees that is unlike anything I’ve ever imagined. He adds:
“Before it dies, a Douglas-fir, half a millennium old, will send its storehouse of chemicals back down into its roots and out through its fungal partners, donating its riches to the community pool in a last will and testament. We might well call these ancient benefactors giving trees.”
Apparently in times of drought, stronger trees that can still photosynthesize send carbon to weaker ones, thereby increasing the resilience of a forest. It also seems that some plants warn each other of dangers such as aphid attacks, so their peers can raise their defences. The interconnectedness of organisms in forest ecosystems goes deeper than we had imagined.*
These trees are doing what God created them to do, but they also model for us the kind of community that thrives. Isn’t this what we see in the book of Acts: networks and networking, provision for the weak, the interconnectedness of life in the community of faith? Mutual dependence, distribution of resources, care and sacrifice are embedded in thriving communities. Trees teach us this. The natural world is speaking to us. Are we listening?
“When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe.”
~ John Muir