Last week I received an unexpected visit from my friend “Hat.” Although I had seen him in passing several times at the general store, we had not visited for any length of time since the Grub Shack closed 2½ years ago.  It has been my loss.

Hat reminds me why I live out here. He is a very kind, generous, and non-judgmental man, and very much a person who is committed to his principles—one of the most important being that he a sovereign person, not controlled by some external authority. He preaches each week at the local Christian church, and if it were not for the fact that my personal beliefs are my own, I would have no problem whatsoever being a member of his flock. He has the moral authority to guide others. He has the spiritual maturity to transcend doctrine or dogma.

An example (our visit didn’t involve much small-talk): One of the things that Hat asserted is the notion that it is an illusion that we are all separate people; we are actually all one and connected in profound ways, and Christ’s admonishment to ‘love others as ourselves’ is simply a reflection of this truth. I immediately thought of how aspen trees typically grow in large clonal colonies, and spread by means of root suckers. Above the ground, one sees individual trees (which is illusion), but below the ground is a single, long-lived root system (the reality). Each individual tree is actually a stem or sprout growing off the ancient root system.

1 OpwaANLEjsCKwfIoyOxhsgOne such colony is in Utah and is given the nickname of “Pando” (Latin for “I spread”). It covers 106 acres, weighs nearly 6 tons, and has over 40,000 stems (trunks), which die individually and are replaced by new stems growing from its roots. The average age of Pando’s stems is 130 years, as determined by tree rings. The roots though are 80,000 years old, making it possibly the oldest living colony of aspens. Aspens are able to survive forest fires, because the roots are below the heat of the fire, with new sprouts growing after the fire burns out.

In fact, fire indirectly benefits aspen trees, since it allows the saplings to flourish in open sunlight in the burned-out landscape. By analogy, how might we benefit as human beings if we were to realize that we are united by our humanity, and not separate as the various religions, states, corporations, etc. would have us believe? How much more successful might we be at facing the tribulations of life if we were to be more conscious that we are not in this life alone?

I seek to protect my autonomy by keeping to myself and not mixing with many people. The Kentucky couple who had their children stolen from them by the state say that their troubles began when they “unfriended” somebody on Facebook. I ran into trouble with one of my neighbors when I refused to choose sides in a feud that he was carrying on with one of his other neighbors, so I can understand how things have a way of spinning out of control when other people are involved. Yet I still haven’t decided.

However, I’m glad my stand-offishness didn’t work with Hat. I wouldn’t have started to think about aspens if he hadn’t visited.


Groove of the Day

Listen to Stevie Wonder performing “The Secret Life Of Plants”


Weather Report

87° and Clear


5 Responses to “pando”

  1. 2 Dave
    May 19, 2015 at 7:02 pm

    Interesting analogy that i will share

  2. May 27, 2015 at 8:20 pm

    Thanks for the kind words Dan. I was also the happy recipient of your insightful metaphor of the Pando, as well as your example of compassionate service to those whom most are more interested in judging and condemning than in understanding and treating with the love which the Master entreated us to extend to all our brothers and sisters of the human family. Looking forward to another fruitful discussion at the next convenient opportunity.

    • May 27, 2015 at 8:52 pm

      Thank you for your kind words, too, as well as for your recent visit. It really meant a lot to me, even though I don’t reach out to others very often.

  3. October 1, 2015 at 1:12 pm

    Good Afternoon Dan,

    Just stumbled upon your blog as I was searching out images for “Pando,” as I am a pastor and teaching on Communion this week, being an admirer of the Aspen enables a fantastic metaphor for the beauty of fellowship within the body of Christ and humanity at large! Thanks for the post and the gorgeous imagery (Although, on closer look I believe your title image is of Aspen in the Grand Teton National Park as Mount Moran seems to loom behind the glowing foreground Aspen- such a gorgeous landscape!) Pando is a fascinating study and I do hope that more and more stumble upon the connection between that 80,000 year old life and our own walking around today. God bless!

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