Week 6, Soil, and the journey of Stan the Silt

(Transcribed from my field notebook.)


2:00 PM

Weather: Chilly, overcast.

I’m Stan, and I’m a silt. Well, a silt particle to be precise, but that’s just syntax. I’m really good friends with some sand. We’re pretty inseparable, actually. They are great pals and have supported me a lot through my life as a silt. I didn’t always used to be this way, you know. In fact, I used to be a tree! I don’t know how big of a tree I was, since it’s hard to gauge your own size when everything else around you is tall, but my tree friends told me I was a nice, healthy, tall tree. I was an oak tree. A Quercus rubra, as humans would call me. But I was also a home to fungi, and epiphytes, and moss, and birds, and insects… I was like a big house, on the outside and the inside.

As a tree, I was no stranger to losing limbs. Sometimes a big gust of wind would shake me and snap off twigs. Other times, lightning would strike and burn off large branches. The wounds always healed, though. And my friends made me feel at home even at times of loss. After a few hundred years of being a pretty happy tree, I was uprooted by a particularly bad storm. The feeling of tipping still wakes me up at night. You wouldn’t believe the sound as the bark and wood splintered, and I crashed upon the ground. There was stillness then. But it took a long, long time for the life to ooze into the soil and out of the tree. Over hundreds of years, I’ve heard a lot of things from the birds, the insects, the moss and the trees. But of all the conversations, I think one stands out in my mind the most. I heard two humans talking about what happens after they die. I listened as they argued if there was an “afterlife” (which they never described, so I don’t know what they meant exactly) or if they just faded away into nothingness. How absurd! The trees have spoken the wisdom of the earth as with all creatures. The stuff that made us trees will just become other trees or animals or plants or fungi and the cycle will continue. There is no such thing as death! But how could I communicate with these humans? I rustled my leaves, but they didn’t notice.

I wanted to tell them that it’s the highest honor to be a part of the soil, that which gives everything life. That which supports the entire food chain! Everything leans on the soil. Everything becomes the soil eventually. Now I’m a silt in the soil, and I feel at home giving life to my friends, who can still hear me through the ground. I loved being a tree, but things didn’t end for me once my shape changed, once my bark and wood was eaten away and stepped on, once my leaves withered and fell. I live in the soil now, with my ancestors and friends and family, and all the others that rush around me. It’s not so bad here.

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