When my children were young, we would spend many weekends on Cape Cod at a favorite place called Fort Hill where bunnies outnumbered humans, and you could perch on a huge boulder to take in the sights and sounds and taste of salt air and water. The trails were flanked by large, sculptured trees that inched out tangled roots across the path trying to trip up those daring souls entering their realm. I would tell the boys with whispered breath that after nightfall, the tree roots would snare the feet of those wandering the trail, not heeding the wisdom of leaving the trail before dark, pulling them underground. Childhood is best remembered with a little darkness, a little shiver for the spine, making a story all the more interesting. (Before you judge me, the only thing different about my story is that it is lacking a campfire.)
So when tree roots are placid and dozing during the daylight hours, I love to hunker down nearby and sketch them. One of the best places to see fabulous tree roots is on the Discovery Trail in Nags Head Woods. Nestled in between wood and water, these are fairytale roots linked to enchanted trees. It would not surprise me to catch sight of a fairy or ogre or singing frog among them.
Roots provide several vital functions : storing nutrients, transporting water and minerals and anchoring the tree, keeping it stable during tough weather conditions. Most tree roots (not all), are only 6 to 24 inches below the surface, and the whole root system is 2 to 4 times the diameter of the crown of the tree. Soil compression from humans and erosion can expose the roots, causing injury to this valuable system.
I work hard at strengthening my roots, nurturing them so I can feel secure when the strong winds blow as they inevitably will. I also know the comfort of being wrapped among other roots when I felt mine were giving way to injury, and I was losing my own balance.
Some trees continue to balance on their roots when all hope seems lost. When that snag finally throws its limbs down in surrender, another seedling is just waiting to stand proudly in its place. For all those whose lives have been shattered from the recent storm, may you come back with stronger roots.
"Don't be angry with the rain; it simply does not know how to fall upward."
- Vladimir Nabokov