Fall Harvest Moon
Lower down, toward Evergreen, many of the aspen have retained their gold leaves, but up here many of the leaves formerly known as gold have turned brown and black, then begun to fall off. When the aspen leaves fall, their gray-white bark still makes them stand out against the green of the lodgepole pine, but the effect is stark, skeletal.
Aspen’s are interesting. If you’ve ever had one in your yard, their most distinctive characteristic can be quite a pain. They reproduce from roots, sending up new trunks at different spots. This means that in aspen groves the trees are genetically identical, or, said another way, they’re all the same tree spread out over a considerable distance.
This has prompted a curious competition between my adopted home state of Colorado and our immediate neighbor to the west, Utah. Which one has the world’s largest living organism? Aspen groves can be quite large, large enough to qualify by mass as the world’s largest living organisms. For example, from this article: “…the Pando grove in Utah’s Fishlake National Forest contains around 47,000 trunks, which collectively weigh more than 13 million pounds.” That’s pretty damned big.
When I post a picture like this one, in other words, you think you’re looking at many aspen trees on the side of Black Mountain. In fact you’re looking at only a few distinct trees with many, many trunks.
I’m going to investigate this a bit further because it has just occurred to me that this doesn’t, at first glance, seem to be a wise evolutionary strategy. Each trunk of the aspen grove requires nutrients from the soil which means to me that each trunk of this widely dispersed single tree has to compete with the other for a limited amount of nutrients. Over time it would seem they would deplete the soil of the nutrients they need. Curious.
The aspen grove did a lot of heavy lifting at Beth Evergreen over the High Holy Days. The comparison of a synagogue to an aspen grove meant we were all connected to each other, our communal life linked in an intimate way. A somewhat strained idea in my opinion, but you see the point.
The aspen grove is a wonderful example of the confusion our senses can bring to us. When we look at the grove, we see individual trees. But, no. There is an occult connection, hidden below the earth’s surface, that binds them together and makes them one. It’s not hard, when contemplating the aspen grove, to return to the angel with the flaming sword guarding the gates of Eden. As I suggested a few posts below, that angel can be seen as language, which both conceals and reveals; it reveals itself as language, but conceals the pathway to the Tree of Life. Behind the angel lies paradise.
In a similar way our senses give us individual trees in an aspen grove, but that perception conceals the aspen’s true nature as one organism. Each time you see an aspen grove, you experience in miniature the true experience our senses give us: Where there is an underlying unity, we see discrete things. The aspen grove can help remind us that our senses lie, if not by commission, then certainly by omission.