Failure to Fail
– by Gary Marks
It was one of those perfect spring days. Not to hot, not to cold, but comfortable for t-shirts and shorts. Leaves were just beginning their canopy growth. The sun reflected through the yellowish-green of the unfurling leaves.
The goal that day was to take a stress free stroll in the “newness of spring”. The park being explored was Giant City and the trail being strolled was the aptly named Giant City Nature Trail. On this trail resides the “streets” where geologists debate the walkways between the bluffs. Bluffs rise on both sides resembling a walk into a city made of solid rock.
Near the end of the “streets” the wonder of balanced rock sets precariously slanted. People pass curiously beneath, some are scared to touch the rock in fear of moving this mass of stone, but what attracts me to this place today is something different, a tree.
I remember the first time setting my eyes upon this unique tree. My first thought was, “Wow!” and has been the same many times since. A massive tree root flowed down a rocky bluff, twisted and gnarled. I wondered how it accomplished this feat and a story begun to unfold in my mind.
The Story of Life
A seed fell where it shouldn’t have. It was destined to become a victim of its poor choice. The soil was thin on top of a sandstone ledge, but the seed started to take root and absorbed the nutrients that were available. It grew content for several years, but soon needed to expand its range. The roots followed the moist ledge where water flowed after hard rains. Making its way down over the following years it soon uprooted on one side by its own weight. It struggled to regain its former strength and twisted and turned until it wedged its now massive root into the ground below. Here it could finally take hold and continue to grow into its full potential.
This tree inspires me. It set out on a course and without any knowledge of failure it took on the task of living. It failed to see that fate was against it and that most trees that are given rocky soil eventually uproot because of the varying circumstances. When it was set back by being partially uprooted it figured out the best way to regain its former strength by exploring new ground. Its tale is just one of the many wonders of the Shawnee Hills.
Note: I debated on publishing this article after a visit Sunday to this tree. Someone had etched there initials into the gnarled roots. I didn’t want to add any more damage by attracting attention to it. As I thought about it, most people who will read this are not the type of people who deface nature. It is my hope that bringing awareness of the wonders of the Shawnee Hills we will take a sense of ownership and educate others on our beautiful region.
Disclaimer: The author and Shawnee Hills Outdoors disclaim any liability or loss incurred as a consequence, directly or indirectly, of the use and application on any information contained in this blog. Please check ranger stations and park superintendents for latest information regarding these areas.