Last weekend, on what was possibly the coldest weekend of the year, I decided to take the boys up to a cabin in the mountains. We did all the expected things like build a fire, argue over Monopoly and consumed twice our body weight in dangerously charred marshmallows.
We also did a couple of great walks. Four kilometres can be a long way on little legs; and after the initial excitement of observations like “look- that branch looks like a bum” died down, we settled into a rather quiet and contemplative pace.
The rainforest is both beautifully silent and yet alive with the sounds of life. As we walked deeper, it swallowed up our imaginations and we started to notice patterns in the vegetation. Large ferns hung lazily off Bunya Pines and Red Cedars. Fig vines coiled around native Tamarinds in various stages of suffocation. Large fungi grew colourfully along the twisted roots of the forest floor.
Insert: dreary grade eleven biology flashback. Suddenly in my head, all the plants had faces. I pointed this out to the boys. Most people that they will come across in life, are actually just like these plants.
There are Fern People, happy to take a free ride into the canopy where they can bask in sunlight that they did nothing to earn. It doesn’t necessarily harm the larger tree; but it’s just dead weight to carry. Everyone has some friends who are ferns.
Then of course, there are the Vine People. They germinate in stumps or tree forks, sending their tentacles down to the ground in an engulfing embrace that slowly kills the host tree. I warned the boys, that whilst most women are good, there are those who will trawl bars at 2am, looking for a host. Best not allow them to attach.
The Fungi People will come in all shapes and sizes. Some are bright and beautiful, some might even look a little gross. Although often un-appreciated, fungi help the host extract nutrients from the soil and fend off harmful parasites. In our lives, these people can be teachers, partners, work friends, siblings… anyone with whom you share the generosity of spirit that helps both of you grow, each day into someone a little better.
As we stepped onto a look out, and admired the breath-taking expanse of forest below, one of my little fellas piped up and asked, “well how do you know the difference?”. I told him with honesty that I did not know; it’s one of those endless pursuits in life to know which relationships to build and which to let go.
Marriage to a Vine will suffocate you. A business partnership will only work with a Fungus. Watch you don’t carry too many Ferns.
I then turned to him with my own question; it’s after all, the only one we can really answer: which plant are you going to be, little man?