Skip to content

Read More

This post and all other posts on our website are snippets from Firth's writings on Substack.

Two Hearts, One Gift

She did this, consciously, and she did this from the inside out. While the singular trunk of our tree worked in the wind, her heart split and two trees worked in her core’s loving heat.

Many feet below her southward crook, a new heart developed. Cambial activity in our tree cousins works ever inwardly, as today transforms into tales and their memories. A tree’s growth rings are writ in different colors of browns and brown greys that death alone may tell, if we are lucky enough to be there and if we are lucky enough to know her song.

Counting tree rings is like counting anything else, I suppose, but each ring’s story is unlike everything else you know—they are the patterned unification of her many ‘today’s, painted in undulating strands of strength, weakness, and her enduring fight against death. In that way, perhaps, you do know, for we are all living somewhere between life and its death. We are all dancing somewhere between the beat of this life and the song of the next.

Some tales are memories of hard times—mythologies, really, when westerly winds pushed and their vacuums heaved. Here, our tree worked steadily against this wind-stress through constructing defenses and basal buttresses. Her cambial cells on the leeward side compressed into wide and denser rings to push against the future’s wind forces. Some tales are memories of famine and pain when bedlams and their marvelous, thundering beasts ravaged and cracked downward against her arithmetic form and flooded the landscape with tiny oceans or burnt deserts. Here, our tree worked to conceal her strength and she slept, preserving herself as the landscape worked around her. Her cambial cells grew into nearly imperceptible stories of this time but she lived as those who live under the dreamlike slumber of a sunny, summer afternoon—just enough to be alive and just enough.

But therein lies the riddle—her mythological enigma writ in her cambial growth. While her cells yearly divided into successive layers that became packed and nestled into her always-building base from the outside in—this is the fundamental process involving cambial growth as tree-ring formation—her new heart seemingly developed from the inside out. It emerged in the trunk of our tree without a previous story, without a mythology or tale of its emergence. It just appeared without a warning.      

It went like this. Her splash rippled across the lowland valley and the hum of saws echoed against her still-standing relations. She fell to make way for a lowland and spring-infused pond and she fell to form the base-layer for our new home—a hand-hewn and technologically-silent log cabin. Her memory would be sound and story enough. We worked to separate her many years into many cabin logs and around seventy feet from her base, she stopped us in our tracks. About five feet below her canopy’s crook, her singular heart became two in form and equal in size. Trees, not unlike their bipedal cousins, have only one heart and you can see the heart when you take a cross-section of their great trunks and look downward at it like a red-tailed hawk looks downward at you. Rings upon rings ooze from the inside of the tree—the inner most moment is her heart.

But, as I said, around seventy feet from her base, her heart split in two. It happened within the span of three linear feet—or, about three or four years in total. While she had grown for nearly one hundred years with one heart and one main trunk—one singular story of rings emerging from her deep and dirt-colored core of cambial memory—here she decided to do something else. She split her heart in half and gifted it away.

That is not a strange thing, for trees are loving friends and give much of themselves away to anyone who dares to ask kindly, humbly. No, the strange thing is that she did this about five feet below the crook in the canopy. That is, about five feet before she would need this second heart. When a white oak develops skyward, their heart becomes complex in chorus and shifts this way or that to support a diversity of limbs in all directions. Large, new limbs evolve small, new hearts to sure their growth and ensure their strength against the bedlam of westerly winds and marvelously, thundering beasts. But her heart split many feet below the point where the crook physically developed. It split nearly a decade before her future, new limb would need it, that is, a decade before the new main limb required her gift to grow as it grew.

She did this, consciously, and she did this from the inside out. While the singular trunk of our tree worked in the wind, her heart split and two trees worked in her core’s loving heat. Against the outside-in and cambial flow of life from today to memory and its enigmatic mythology, she grew from the inside-out and in ways that she need not to grow but she grew and her growth is a testament to her loving life. Are limbs extensions or rather children of the mother tree? Science tells us that they are extensions. Our friend, the mother oak, tells us something different, for her heaved heart’s now diminutive size silently speaks. Do we listen?

That trees grow is good; that their growth is perceptible in their time-told trunks is fine; but that their growth is ever more complex than our simple and scientific stories allow is altogether wonderful. She was a visionary, perhaps increasingly so with her age. While her growth rings tell a tale of relational reactionism sustained over great time, her splitting heart speaks to a vision of a future, her future. What we saw was not a response, but a decision.

Enjoyed this Article?

On Firth's Substack, The Wildland Chronicles, you can comment and discuss these articles and more!

Learn More


Your cart is currently empty.

Start Shopping

Select options