The Pando, a trembling giant, is the oldest living organism on earth––also the largest and most dense, its name means I spread, which it does over one-hundred and six acres.
How old? I wondered. Some date this clonal colony back 80,000 years, a moment that roughly corresponds to the first known human burial. This seems significant.
There is a woman who travels the earth photographing the old trees. Time is the trunk, she says. Notice the split, she says, pointing to one of the ancients. To accommodate the storm.
She looks and looks. In each careful frame, she watches the old souls, how they shape the light. Making a record, she says. Lest people forget who they were, in the event of further collapse.
In their presence, she finds a reminder. There is still grace. There is still beauty. There is something and it’s made of grief but also beyond it, and it is still here.
Inspired by this article on photographer Beth Moon’s quest to photograph ancient trees, and also by this articleabout the world’s oldest clonal colony of aspen. I learned about the earliest known human burial here.
Once, studying some recurring questions, I encountered a phrase: Be the hero of your own life.
Correction. He did have a few words; he just didn’t seem to string them together into anything that sounded like a sentence. While we were marching, I could make out something like, “Yes, Success! Yes! Are you . . . ready to rumble?!!!”
He shouted the word “Legacy!” in a similar manner, but with a more elaborate percussive element.
The attempt at – (what was that, anyway? making an impression? branding? was it meant to be instructive?) whatever it was, would likely have landed much differently on someone less porous, less susceptible to wonder about where her body ends and the next one began. It might have been recounted fondly as one of those turning point events so popular in American films, as in: “I was just sitting there, or dancing in a circle with no discernible ambition and then––Whammo! Blinded by the light and a sudden potent animal heat, I was moved to the summit!”
Of what? One might ask, but this is often wasted breath. If so inclined, it’s probably best to step back and simply regain what breath can be had, given the prevalence of such attacks by the spirited and hairy successful creatures, lauded throughout the land for their immense strength and variety of name brand merchandise.
You can know them by their talk: by their obsessions with legacies, their playbooks of endgames, their hostility towards doubt in all forms.
For a carrier of other bodies, the points of endings, like the points of beginnings, were equally irrelevant and often not even on the map, if there was one, which started either in the branching alveoli, or the ventricles (Which one? Right, left? Upper or lower? And which came first, arteries or veins?) or in the sound of a mother’s heartbeat, or her own, or her child’s, and if most of this is water, where would I find the source? Do I go back to Eden, the four rivers, or further, to some original droplets of cosmic condensation?
There were good reasons to struggle with the question of beginnings, which naturally impacted the question of focus, and, regarding various inquiries around one’s own life, where exactly it was.
A better suggestion, in my case, might have been, Come here. Look ––for example, at the aspen, to notice the unseen roots. I might have been instructed to sit and listen, in good company, which I did ––and I was, eventually, and there wasn’t a hero among us, only a song in the distance and the waiting, and everything that mattered