Two young Douglas Fir saplings grow deep in a remote part of a shady forest. Spring-green needles soft as fur cover the young trees. A mixed forest – big leaf maples, cascara, alder – growing with a wealth of understory plants. Deep shade here; are the saplings in too much shade? But light does stream through a gap in the canopy. Beams of sunlight cover the young trees until late morning in summer. Full sun in winter when leaves are down. The young trees are well-placed. They’ll be fine.
At some point companion plants are added. Oregon grape, western bleeding heart, sword fern, redwood sorrel – a small council of native plants support the young saplings. These do well in dappled shade. Rich soil with more than 100 years of leaf mulch support the small community. Old, downed limbs and wood debris – large, moss-covered, bent, broken – conceal the new community and disguise its youth. It blends so efficiently with its surroundings that it becomes difficult to find when its caretaker returns to tend it. As it should be.
A Heat Dome settles over the region. People, animals, plants – all struggle in the extreme temperatures. Many people die, countless animals and plants suffer. The heat is numbing. Drought haunts this year. Soil is dry to the touch. Streets are quiet, dust floats through the stifling air. Heat settles in like threats from a bully. Wildfires erupt through the region, and they add their own weather – winds, fire clouds, more heat. More drought.
In the forest, the young sapling communities survive. Someone tends to them occasionally. Up-slope, deep within the forest in an almost inaccessible area resides another community. This one is older – about 15 years of growth show clearly on these trees – and healthy. The one who planted these trees is no longer the one who tends them; the honor of care for this community has been passed to another. These trees, redwoods, far surpass their caretakers. Someday the honor of care for these trees will be passed along again, and again, until they show proud, tall, and beautiful above the forest canopy.
Then they will not need tending; instead, they will tend to the forest. And to us.