Nurse Logs in the Hoh Rain Forest, The Olympic Peninsula, Washington State
The Ten of Pentacles, Emily Lubanko
Nurse logs are easily found at the Hoh and in other forests left to function on their own time. They offer a unique perspective on life. At the end of its magnificent time standing between the Earth and Sky, for whatever reason, be it old age, disease, wind fall or some other damage, a tree falls and lies on the forest floor. It is not dead. Life continues to thrive for a very long time. Insects live in its bark, animals burrow under and in it for a home, mushrooms, ferns, and lichens are all happy to move in to this available habitat. Tiny seedlings of the forest trees land on its back by being dropped by other trees. They piggy back on the strength of this great fallen being. Nourished by the wealth of nutrients in the fallen tree, protected by the tall trees around them, they take root and grow. Trees get water from their roots. As the baby trees are too short to reach the ground they can access water collected in the crevices of the bark provided by the drippings of the large trees around them who collect the rains and fogs and filter them down to the forest below. Gradually, they grow stronger and bigger, always attached to their nurse log, their home. Some of these baby trees get very large indeed, their roots entwined around the nurse log and even each other, forming an inseparable bond while the nurse log continues to support them. After a long time, the nurse log might decay enough to leave visible spaces where the now very large tree’s roots, firmly anchored in the ground, are still holding the space of the fallen tree.
Trees carry recordings - memories - of their surroundings in their tree rings like a library of information. They record growth patterns, when fire threatened their existence, wet or dry years, and whatever memory the water they absorb carried with it. We don’t even know what else is locked in those precious rings of memory. All this is all held within their bodies, even after they have “died” and fallen. I wonder if the baby trees on the nurse logs receive those memories from their fallen host even as they begin to record their own rings of information. We know the root system of the forest is connected. We know the Standing People communicate as one giant organism. Why not share their memories as well?
I like to think of our ancestors as the nurse logs. We are dependent on them for our home, nourishment, and safety. We carry their memories in our shared stories and culture. As we grow we continue to express not just our own individuality but traits from the ancestors as well. Even after they are gone, there is still a space within us that holds their memory. The human family is like the forest family; we are all interconnected in the great Web of Life. There really is no separation. Not every tree in the forest reproduces itself but they all interconnect to make the forest and support each other. Family, friends, neighbors. We are all one.
Perhaps this is a good time to honor the “nurse logs” of your life and give thanks for all the shared memories. And, be sure to share your precious memories with others. We each hold a unique story that is meant to be told.
...Kathryn Ravenwood 8.2.19