The old trees of this world, like ten-thousand-year-old vampires they sprout life anew from the jaws of death.
And they do it for the light of a billion burning stars we haven’t even noticed yet.
Does it boggle your mind that over 90% of the galaxies in the universe have yet to be noticed by our keen human eyes?. Even so, there they are, feeding ancient light and photons to our planets every oldest living thing, unknown and unnoticed by us.
Up there, in the sky, from far outside the reach of Planet Earth, they are the light that paints our day. Light that has traveled from distant clusters of stars through dark and matter for millions and in some cases, even, billions of years towards our magnetic field that shelters life down here, photons that caress and bounce their way through the atmosphere, clouds, and water.
And down here, the old trees of this world soak it all up. They reach up towards the dark organic space above as they pull organic life and matter, and energy from alien worlds and transform it to earthbound life and energy.
The moist in the air, the pollution we create, the water from deep within the core of Earth.
They devour the nutrients in light, warmth, and photons from us humans and far away worlds and stars. Individual trees that in rare cases rooted as early as the end of the last ice age, 10 000 years ago.
Yet somehow, they continue to thrive, as they defy the end to our individual cycle of life, these ancient trees replenish and pull back from the slow breakdown of life that snapped so many other living organisms from the gates of breathing, living things. And in doing so, they act as biological islands feeding a complex and ancient ecosystem with a unique lifeforce of their own.
They are not parasites that steal land and energy, and life from the surrounding world, no, they are ancient sentinels, providing and protecting a chain of life that is far too unique and rare in our modern world.
Each proud tree that stands tall and mighty above ground might look like a perfect individual tree to us, a tree which at rare times can live for more than a 1000 years. Europe has one such tree in Greece, and others like it in Sweden ( a gigantic fairy tale oak, as old as the swords of Vikings, complete with a man-sized room growing straight through it ) and in England, you can find other 1000-year-old trees.
But the mighty ancient thing we see above ground is not the end of the tree, it is just one part of a living and thriving biological network.
Each individual tree is in truth its very own ecosystem for thousands of animals, and each tree also connects to and communicates with all the other trees that surround them.
As such, when life cut down the upper body of one tree, sometimes that just isn't the end of the story for that tree, and instead, that little hump that life left behind continues to live as new branches strangely slow start growing, all while moss and mushrooms claim it as their own humpback formed meadow.
Even more fascinating perhaps.
All the trees and their mutual ecosystem that it used to be a living and thriving part of, might decide to continue feeding their humpback friend nutrition and life.
Nursing their battle-wounded friend back to life.
A matter of fact that at times result in a beautifully resilient generation-spanning tree which might loose dozens of upper bodies, but the roots of the very first tree, the ancient seed and core if you so will, they just refuse to die, and instead of caving in that core will perpetually send new upper bodies up above soil to feed on the sun for tens of thousands of years.
Sort of like how we lose and grow new hair and fur :P.
Several such death-defying conifers grow in the cold north of Sweden, having rooted at the end of the last ice age 10 000 years ago. And does that not make you wonder if those trees will outlast us all.
And perhaps one day, if we fast forward our train of thought just a little, to a point where we traverse the universe as an interplanetary species, back home on Earth these trees will, undisturbed by us and our worthlessly reckless society, continue to live for millions of years. And perhaps one day as we sail across distant stars and oceans, we will talk about our distant home with its trees that have lived for as long as the light of the sun traveled to reach us.
But this real-life fairy tale does not end with that, because beneath these gnarly old trees another world hides in waiting, unobscured and unseen by our human eye.
Sometimes, deep down, down under the soil and the roots of our old sentinel's gigantic ecosystems grow in turn. Not the roots of the trees, but another ecosystem, another living organism that feeds off of the trees, growing and breathing in perpetual synchronization with Earths wooden giants.
The biggest such living thing which we currently know of is the mushroom called Armillaria Ostoyae.
Well, let us backtrack, just for a few brief moments. Back to the very first paragraph of this article, and the 90+% of the universe which we still haven't even noticed.
You see, the universe is in constant flux.
Stars and planets, black holes and moons, they give rise to new planetary babies, they kill, devour, swallow and merge, so as we progress, think of the universe as a living breathing organic thing, planets and all.
Because, what once was, might tomorrow be something entirely new.
The stars we look up at during night actually move, they dim, they grow bright, and their shape and mass will change too, they multiply, divide, shrink and die.
Add to that our ever-growing scientific understanding of life and the universe.
It wasn't until very recently that we realized that the universe we can see and think we know, have trillions of more galaxies than we had previously understood.
And as you let that number sink in you have to keep in mind a few scientific realities of our own lack of knowledge. It is easy to think that what we knew 30 years ago was a constant, unmovable fact, but that´s not how science or our ever-changing and evolving life work at all.
You see, the observable universe which we base our scientific knowledge on is by itself only a thin slice of the actual thing.
We simply do not have the technology to observe more of it right now, and beyond our lack of better technology, nature itself works against our knowledge about the universe.
Well, what I actually mean is that the nature of time and distance is for now making sure that out of that thin slice we should think of as the observable universe, we can right now only measure and look at less than 10% simply put because neither is the technology good enough yet, but light and other transmissions have also not had enough time to reach us from all the other 90%+ parts of the universe.
So, not only is that organic thing called life & the universe constantly evolving and changing. But we also constantly increase our scientific knowledge about life, in fact, for every second that tick away we get to see a little bit more of that incredibly vast uncharted mass that no human eyes have ever witnessed.
And every moment brings with it that ephemeral first when we lift the factual real-life veil and look back at the sounds and light, radiation and transmissions from millions of year old moments.
“It boggles the mind that over 90% of the galaxies in the universe have yet to be studied.”
Think about those words for a brief few seconds. Words that mirror my own thoughts and writing but uttered by scientist Christopher Conselice instead of me.
And as you pause for a brief few seconds in your busy day, just imagine how much real life stuff we have yet to discover about the universe, just look at how much we are currently and recently revealing about our own little milky way galaxy and planet. And then, multiply that with trillions of trillions of galaxies.
Add to that this simple reality.
Each galaxy is a biological cluster of life and millions, if not billions of stars.
Sort of like our trees, old and new, down here on planet Earth.
And beneath those trees, we have that other giant ecosystem, the one of ants and mushrooms, burrowing worms and tiny little things that live down in the soil. Underground dwellers that feed and replenish our entire planet with fresh life-giving soil.
Armillaria Ostoyae is the name of one of those hidden basement dwelling worlds. It is, in fact, the largest known organism in the world, and it is spreading its own roots as it feeds off of the trees above in Oregon, USA.
This particular mushroom meadow is approaching almost 2400 acres in size, all on its lonesome self.
Just like a galaxy.
Well, almost at least. Vast ever growing, changing, evolving. Living and breathing. Not on its own isolated self, but together with the trees. In symbiosis, feeding, killing, giving birth, dividing and multiplying.
Every single day, we see more of the universe, and we learn more about it. And we also learn more about life on this planet, we see more of it. And we understand more of how life on Earth functions and connect to the rest of the universe.
And the more we see, the more we understand just how complex and fascinating and connected our entire living, breathing, organic universe actually is.
We have learned that apex predators are not our enemy down on Earth. They might be scary, but like the old, forlorn trees of this planet, they too are essential for maintaining a properly working world.
We have learned about the ways we impact this planet in disastrous ways. The negativity of our human impact on natures natural climate cycles. The way we destroy our soil and oceans. The way we have wiped out more than 60% of wild animals in less than 40 years.
Some will shield their heart and minds to this knowledge as if facing our changing reality in truthful observation and acknowledgment somehow makes life unlivable.
But the truth is that science and life is a marvelous thing. And that ever-growing knowledge is not to be feared, the unknown is always out there, and it is simply what it is, no matter how it twists and turns.
And the more we uncover, the more we learn and the wiser we grow, the better we can live in harmony with that gigantic ecosystem which the universe really is. Every part balances with all the others, down here on Earth and out there far beyond the observable universe.
Science teaches us how to do it, no matter if we are talking about the building blocks for life on other planets or climate change and the negative impact of fossil fuel and unsustainable living down here on Earth.
Science is not the enemy, and it is not something to hide and run from, because the wise thing to do is, of course, to always evolve with our growing knowledge and to do that, we all have to acknowledge the way that life is and the way it constantly changes.
Right now, we´ll I am not so sure that our ancient tree sentinels will be around for much longer. Quite a lot of people out there just doesn't seem ready to actually pollute less and live more sustainable. Instead, they are hiding from the reality that stares them in the face.
They hide from technology and old wisdom alike.
Not wanting to see the way things are, it is an old human trait. But we know better today. We know that 300 Swedish wolves aren't to be blamed for the unsustainable way of humanity, or the need to go plant-based in our food choices.
Wolves and other apex predators are not the reason why more than 60% of wildlife has been wiped out during my lifetime. People are, and we are the solution too and not just the problem, no matter if we are talking about 9 million dead people from air pollution or the demise of our old trees and the destructive landgrab of our cruel and unsustainable agricultural industry.
I am despite the shortcomings of humanity, still hopeful that we will one day get to talk about our forlorn vampire trees, the ones that still sway in the wind, together with recovered packs of deer and wolves, European bison and soaring white-tailed eagles.
But whatever way the future tale of planet Earth will head in the far larger tome of the Universe, that is up to us, the shortcomings and brilliance of our still living breathing homidae species.
I originally published this piece over on my ‘norse View’ library back in 2016. But it´s been updated and polished up a bit for my ‘Beyond 2c’ magazine. http://www.anorseview.com/?q=armillaria-ostoyae-andthe-ephemeral-universe
music of the day Whispers of the ancient gods by Noctem https://open.spotify.com/track/501lUSDj5Mtr3fa6UZdg6T?si=Rc9hf5QmSgmfnSj4byjcEA