There's a beech tree in the woods at Dragon Hollow. It's deep, deep in the woods. So deep I had never seen it until I went off the path and climbed a slope I'd never climbed before and ended up in a gully I had never clambered through before.
It's overgrown there, with rhododendron, dog hobble, and brambles. Fallen trees criss-cross the gully, making transit difficult for a two-legger like me.
I tripped and stumbled on a steep incline, and landed on my butt next to this beech.
It's not a tall beech. It's not a thick beech. It's not even a pretty beech.
In fact, if you were landscaping for picturesqueness, you'd probably have it removed. It's not picturesque.
What it is, is damaged. At some point, a larger tree fell on it and knocked it to the ground. Its trunk broke nearly in half, very near the base. Then another tree fell, breaking the fallen trunk in several additional places.
The beech lies along the ground, twisted, misshapen, broken, scarred. Two dead trees lie on top of it still, holding it down. The bark is damaged where they landed.
Yet still, it rises.
Along its length, portions of the tree that once were branches are now new trunks. They rise upward, stretching toward the light.
How. How. How does it do this?
I have been dreaming of disappearing into the woods. I have dreamed this for most of my life. To just. Disappear. To take a small pack on my back, a water bottle by my side, maybe a pocket knife, and just disappear. Become one with the forest.
Maybe reappear someday, twigs in my hair, leaves sprouting from my fingers, my skin made of bark. Maybe not.
When I'm depressed or in the throws of CPTSD response, sometimes this manifests as a death wish. I don't plan to make myself die, but sometimes I want to crawl into the earth and be human no longer.
Say goodbye to all the trials, all the stresses, all the strains. Goodbye, goodbye. Descend down and rise up, all spirit no body. Or just, simply, nothing.
This past weekend, I took myself into the woods. A miniature disappearing act. Knowing I would return. Knowing I am not yet ready for permanent disappearing. I went into the woods, though, for respite.
And something happened. I found that a part of me DID disappear. Into the earth. A part of me GREW for the purpose of disappearing.
I grew roots.
It's not quite accurate to say that the roots are new. I've been working on them. But this past weekend they took on life in a new way. They grew down and down and down and became stronger, bolder. They gave me respite. They let me disappear beneath the earth.
I grew into the woods.
How, how, how did that beech tree become what it is? Roots.
When we two-leggers look at trees, we see trunks. Branches. Leaves. But that is only a part of the story, not even half of it.
The most important work goes on below the surface, under the earth, in the roots. That is where the tree finds its chief sustenance, its strength, its resilience, and its life. Roots are the primary means of communication among individuals. The roots of the forest's guardians (mother and father and parent and grandparent trees, usually the largest trees in the forest, often oak and/or beech) are how they regulate the life of the forest, keep it in balance.
Of course there is important work above ground, too. Photosynthesis. Breath. Transforming carbon dioxide into oxygen. But none of this work is possible without the work underground.
You can't see my roots. I don't expect you to. I don't want you to. They're mine. They're private. They're underground.
They're doing work that is not translatable into words. It shouldn't be. It's not made for the light. It's made for dark places, for earthy places, for fecund places filled with fungal threads and burrowing worms and the dens of hibernating furries.
It's risky even sharing that they exist. Inviting you to see them, to see how they trail behind and below me, how they root me, wherever I am. Inviting you to dig for them. Don't dig for them. Trust.
It's Spring. You can feel it in the air. Time to rise. Your feed is probably full of people exhorting you to sweep out the debris of winter and fill your life with sunshine. This advice is not wrong. But it is incomplete.
As we move into the next season, into sunlight and warmth, let us not forget where our true sustenance comes from. Let us not forget the work that goes on underground. Let us not forget to nurture the parts of ourselves that grow best in darkness.
For that is the work that enables us to weather the storms, the catastrophes, the worries and anxieties and disasters, to survive the damage and then, still, to rise.
Fen Druadìn (they/them) is anamchara, storyteller, dragon, student of trees, and a breaker of generational curses.
Fen's mission here is to love and remember themself completely, connect deeply with the world, and help others do the same for themselves.
Fen connects deeply with the universe through their relationship with a sacred land in the Appalachians of North Carolina, and shares messages here and elsewhere. When not in the woods, they can be found on Facebook and Patreon.
If you feel led and are able, you can support Fen's work in any of these ways:
You can also contribute to the work of reconnecting with yourself and the world in any or all of these ways:
Stand in front of a mirror, look in your eyes, and say, "I love you." Repeat daily for as long as it takes
Send your love to the trees and stones and water and Earth
Spend time in quiet meditation with a plant or stone person, and listen for messages
Clean up litter in your neighborhood and/or engage in other acts of environmental restoration
Build a personal relationship with the plants and animals in your area by spending time with them and listening for their messages and responding to their needs
Reconnect with your own strength and power and truth via meditative practice such as yoga, guided meditation, chanting, drumming, dance, or any other tool that feels right and helps you ground and connect
Engage in this community and/or other communities committed to re-establishing our right relationship with ourselves and the earth
Wherever you are, on your journey and in your life, may you be well, may you be at peace, and may you always find the next good step.