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Susan’s Stump

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Perhaps the consciousness manifest in the fruiting tree is worthy of a name.

The great mythologist Joseph Campbell often spoke of the consciousness of plants, and a friend recently shared wonderful evidence of such.

The way growing things respond to the sun was Campbell’s favorite example of plant consciousness. We’re very familiar with the sight of the seeking sprout, and I saw a time-lapse video once of the way an entire field of sunflowers tracked the sun’s passage.  My friend’s example, however, is a much more complex display.

Susan lives on the edge of the wild, so to speak. The river bed below her property is sometimes blessed with flow, and the banks are cluttered by the sawed remains of trees that have been felled by a memorable fire as well as old age and possibly flood.

Near her house is a cottonwood stump that was there long before she arrived five years ago, and it is the site of a wonder. In the middle of the stump another tree is growing, a fruit tree. Susan did not plant the tree, and the trunk had not been hollowed out and filled with soil to make a rustic pot.

Who knows how the seed found its way to the stump? Perhaps it fell from a long-vanished parent, biding its time until wood had rotted enough and sufficient silt had gathered to provide footing. Or perhaps someone whimsically stuffed the seed in a crack after eating the sweet flesh around it.

This year for the first time, the tree is bearing fruit. Neither Susan nor I can tell what it is. It is slightly fuzzy in its youth like a peach, but the leaves don’t look like peach leaves. When it ripens in a few weeks, and if the raccoons don’t get it first, the mystery will be solved.

The stump reminds me a bit of an altar, the upstart tree a symbol of the mysterious and resilient ways of nature that should inspire reverence. Perhaps it could become the destination of respectful pilgrimage.

The scrappy and determined energy of the founding seed is still palpable. Perhaps the consciousness manifest in the fruiting tree is worthy of a name. “Hugo” comes to mind, but that should really be up to Susan.

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