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Branching Out: Magic of the Lost Trees

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Once upon a time, a young woman typed the last of data into a computer at a desk in a cubicle back East. The saltwater coursing within her ached to lap at shores of earth, to kiss the trees and touch the sky. 

She encountered masters on her new journey, with whom she studied the ways of plants, soil and cosmos. Dark crescents blossomed under her nails, 10 magical hooks connecting her to the land, in communion, at last, with moon and tides, plants and soil. Practicing their ways — mycorrhizae and mycelium, microbes and biomes — the Mountains of the West sang out to her. 

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“Sink roots here,” they called. 

“Join a flow where the mighty rivers pour forth,” they exhorted. 

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“Dance with the skin of our Earth,” they invited. 

“Renourish your soul…”

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She honored the call, leaping further into the unknown.

Seasons passed in the West, where she learned to discern the ways of the trees and fruit on her own. Soon, head bowed among the boughs, she heard whisperings of special, hardy fruit trees; a century and a half ago, Old World farmers had sought a new life, too. Cutting young wood from their beloved orchards, they folded them into wet cloth and tended them carefully on journeys across the sea to a New World.

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The roots of those trees are now ancient, gripping rocks and clay across her valley. They lift gnarled and broken limbs to brilliant alpine sun. And if they are fortunate… blanketed by just the right amount of mountain cold… drenched in just the right amount of spring wet… kissed by just the right amount of summer sun… their spent blossoms concede to ovaries swelling with Life, blushing like jewels. Pendulous in their glory, entire limbs bend low to the earth, each conferring with the other. Attuned, the young woman caught wind of their whispers.

These are the Lost Trees, scattered far and wide across the land. Alas, some are losing their hold. Age, time and neglect bleed their Life, leaving amputated husks where once, there was vigor.

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And too, no longer are larger orchards tended for flavor, succulence and beauty. Deliciousness has given way to storage life, shippability, uniformity. 

The young woman sought word of the Lost Trees, exploring forests and fields close to the sun. She was astounded by the wild and feral fruits, shoots and roots. By seeds and leaves. She reveled in the sweetness of the currant berries that grew at the feet of fir trees. She filled her belly with the pomes and drupelets cloaking stream banks, spilling from scree fields. She grew more alive, partaking in the fruit of the Earth. 

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One exceptional morning, when the sky was especially blue, she had an epiphany. The very air around her was alive. Birds perched atop vagrant sunflowers. Upside down, they cracked open oil-rich seeds and swallowed, preparing for their long journeys South. Ducks gobbled algae for flights North. Butterflies sipped mineral deposits. Noshing organic debris, sowbugs pooped out soil richer than the dirt beneath them. All the feasting, flying, fluttering and floating amplified the very aliveness in the woman. 

We’re One, she smiled, hugging the Knowing to her heart. 

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Word of her rippled through the land. And so at last, the young woman earned her way to the Lost Trees. In her earnestness, they recognized a kindred spirit. They would teach her the magic necessary to save them.

They taught her their outlook on the seasons. They taught her about their limbs, branches and shoots, and which would make new trees. They taught her how to cut them and attach them to wilder, stronger roots, how to care for them in their journey to rebirth. 

Today, the young woman travels throughout the land, preserving and growing the Lost Trees so that the People can once again have apples so crisp and juicy they practically clean your teeth, eating them. The People can pluck plums so luscious, one blushes, too, feeling they maybe should eat them in private, with the door closed and music playing.

The Lost Trees were saved. The People learned to eat from the land again, and wild places, as their ancestors did so long ago. They, too, made the leap, like the young woman and the Old World farmers. Children behaved better. Wives and husbands made love more. Throughout the land, stools were firmer, cheeks rosier. Strava scores skyrocketed; people slowed at stop signs and left much larger tips in cafes. For they, too, soon discovered that we are a harmonious One.

Inspired by Vanessa Harmony, owner/farmer at Colorado Edible Forest at Rivendell Farms. CEF grows edible herbaceous plants, groundcovers, shrubs and vines. Grafted “Lost Trees” are available for sale in the fall. More info at or 970.718.2781.

Vanessa Harmony collects scion wood to propagate a heritage plum tree. Photo by Geneviève Villamizar

Tags: #agriculture #Branching Out #Colorado Edible Forest #fruit #Heritage #trees #Vanessa Harmony
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