Suzanne Simard Creates a Bridge to the Future by Sara Wright

It interests me that September 30th was declared Truth and Reconciliation Day in Canada because this is the day I was born and this is where I think we need to begin. Truth and Reconciliation is about acknowledging the wound and healing the split between the Indigenous ways of being in the world and the rest of western civilization. First we become fully accountable for the blood that was shed on this continent by immigrants (knowingly or unknowingly). Healing the bloody root that is still caught underground. And then we need to begin to listen to those who are still in direct relationship with the earth…If there was ever a time for humans to surrender one perspective for another it is now. We need to reject the values of patriarchy – domination, war, hatred, and division – and make a shift to what Carol Christ calls an egalitarian matriarchy  – a communal way of living that values relationships and compassion and thrives upon equality between the sexes – one that also celebrates diversity. Turning to Nature and Indigenous peoples to learn how to make this shift is a road to genuine hope…

All summer I have been engaged with mushrooming in the forest, a practice that has deepened my relationship with the forest as a whole as well as making it even more real to me that I am walking on hallowed ground with Forest Scientist Suzanne Simard, who also learned about (symbiotic) mycorrhizal networks by examining mushrooms. Mushrooms are the fruiting bodies of some of the millions of gold, silver, red and orange threads that lie just beneath the forest floor. Thanks to the work of this feminist, (the word is never used in her book Finding the Mother Tree…) Suzanne is a prime example of a woman who has lived her life as a radical feminist who is indebted to her male relatives and does not find men a threat.

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Lessons From the Mother Tree by Sara Wright

Picture of Sara Wright standing outside in nature

Last night I was reading Forest Scientist Susanne Simard’s new book “Finding the Mother Tree”. She was writing about how uncanny it was that her personal life has paralleled that of trees, the forests, the plants, the fungi, the mycorrhiza (underground networks), she has been studying for more than thirty years. This weaving of Nature’s ways through human lives has also been my life experience, although I am a naturalist and not a scientist. (I capitalize the word “nature” to accord her the Sovereignty that is missing because most humans see Nature as a “resource” to be used – not a Living Being). I take note of the fact that so many of these tree advocates are women.

I observe and listen to Nature by paying close attention to weather patterns, to flourishing or withering leaves, bowed or broken trees, to wind, to parched ground, to birds, to animals, to water, to fire, water, earth and air, and by being emotionally present to whatever is happening in my own backyard while scanning earth and sky for ‘signs’ of what’s to come. I receive the answers I need if not through a bird sighting, a porcupine, a clump of moss, a dying tree, then through dreams. For months now I have been threatened by the immanent loss of our forests by way of dreaming.

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“Finding The Mother Tree” by Sara Wright

Susan Simard received her PhD in Forest Science and is a research scientist who works primarily in the field. Part of her dissertation was published in the prestigious journal Nature. Currently she is a professor in the department of Forest and Conservation Sciences at the University of British Columbia where she is the director of The Mother Tree Project. She is designing forest renewal practices, investigating the ecological resilience of forests, and studying the importance of mycorrhizal networks during this time of climate change.

Susan’s research over the past 30 plus years has changed how many scientists perceive the relationship between trees, plants, and the soil. Her intuitive ideas about the importance of underground mycorrhizal networks inspired a whole new line of research that has overturned longstanding misconceptions about forest ecosystems as a whole. Mycorrhizae are symbiotic relationships that form between fungi and plants. The fungi colonize the root systems of plants providing water and nutrients while the plant provides the fungus with carbohydrates. The formation of these networks is context dependent.

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