Richard Grant wrote an article in the March 2018 Smithsonian Magazine entitled, “Do Trees Talk to Each Other?”. He interviewed German forester and author Peter Wohlleben who says, “Some are calling it the ‘wood-wide web’. All the trees here, and in every forest that is not too damaged, are connected to each other through underground fungal networks…scientists call these mycorrhizal networks.” He cites an example of a beech stump that still had chlorophyll in it because the surrounding trees were keeping it alive. Another professor of ecology, Suzanne Simard, describes mother trees found in forests, the biggest, oldest trees with the most fungal connections. “With their deep roots, they draw up water and make it available to shallow-rooted seedlings. They help neighboring trees by sending them nutrients, and when the neighbors are struggling, mother trees detect their distress signals and increase the flow of nutrients accordingly.” They find that trees share resources across other species because they’ve learned they will live longer and reproduce more in a healthy, stable forest. “That’s why they’ve evolved to help their neighbors.”
I started to think that this is church to me, a network of trees that carry each other in this way. We are all our own tree, but we hold each other up. Holy Spirit binds us together. Church helps me to see outside of myself to the greater whole of God’s forest. I feel a solidarity with others that are struggling and celebrating with their own growth. Individual trees, but our roots are woven together. Our roots go deep into that which gives us strength, hope, wisdom, and all that is loving and good…that which is God. It made me think about these questions, which I pose for your reflection too:
Who are our mother trees?
How much do I contribute to the network, and how much do I take?
Has disease come into our forest? Are we able to overcome it?
Do we show our colors like in autumn? Do we winter well, exposing our bare selves to the elements, so new life can come again in the spring?
Do we move in the breeze together?
Do we honor our stumps? And treasure our saplings?
Do I help those that are a different species than me enough?
Do we reach for the sun and stretch our roots to the life-giving water?
For as Jeremiah reminds us,
“Blessed is the man (and woman) who trusts in the Lord and whose trust is the Lord. For he (she) will be like a tree planted by the water, that extends its roots by a stream and will not fear when the heat comes,” (17:7-8).