Heartwood: It Grows in Layers


Heartwood:  “It grows in layers, like the spirit does.  That’s what Grandpa Sam used to say, anyway.  You just got to keep the roots in a clear stream and not let nobody taint the water for you.”  ~ Billy Bob Holland’s father in James Lee Burke’s Heartwood

As a lifelong tree lover, when I stumbled across the above passage in Burke’s book over the long Memorial Day weekend, I was fascinated by the idea of heartwood.

So I dug a bit, if you’ll pardon the pun, and did a little research via two well-known online resources:  Google and Wikipedia.  With the word heart in my Google search for heartwood, y’all know where I’m going with this, don’t you?

Wise old Wikipedia

“Heartwood is wood that, as a result of a naturally occurring chemical transformation, has become more resistant to decay.”

Apparently the formation of heartwood is spontaneous and doesn’t occur in all types of trees.  And some trees, like chestnut and mulberry, start forming a heartwood core early while pine and maple wait until the tree is older before beginning to form heartwood.

One thing is for sure, rings of heartwood are strong, solid and nearly impenetrable.  In his novel, James Lee Burke writes that saws tended to bounce right off a tree with a heartwood center.

How cool is that?

Can humans grow heartwood?

I suspect many of you already carry a nucleus of heartwood.  You just might not know it until the proverbial saw strikes you, maybe in the form of a job loss or a death in your family.  It might not even be something quite so catastrophic; I know that strife in my life commonly appears as hurt feelings or perceived injustice.

Wouldn’t you like to think that the saw will deflect off the strength of your inner being when pain or worry or major fear strikes you?

For anyone who has been knocked down by significant change in her life and risen again, I submit that you do have a thick core of heartwood.  Good for you!  That means you’re resistant to decay just like the mightiest of stately trees!

I wonder if, like the trees, we have an inherent chemical disposition that causes a similar transformation in us?  I believe transformation is possible for anyone, but it’s certainly easier when we recognize the existence of the chemical disposition, a.k.a., a spiritual connection.

For those of you who believe that everything is created by a loving and gracious power of the universe, why wouldn’t we humans receive a similar heartwood composition like God gives trees?

This weekend when you’re on the nature trail or maybe just relaxing in your backyard, give a mental shout out to the trees.  Heartwood:  it’s the trunk of life.

Photo courtesy of Alvimann

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