Damaged Roots

This past weekend, my husband and I hiked through an area of Kelowna, British Columbia that had been ravaged by wildfires last August.

This experience was new for us, and eerie.

I was expecting the landscape to be more barren than it was. But many trees were still standing. Some were visibly charred at the base but showing new growth at the top. Quite incredible.

What I found more disturbing were large holes like this, everywhere. (This one is probably three or four feet across).

At first, we thought they were animal burrows, but they actually marked where entire root balls of trees had been scorched. Most of the time, the tree that used to be there was gone.

I did a bit of research when we got back and learned that sometimes, fire burns underground — devouring root systems while leaving the visible part of the tree unscathed. That is, until the wind picks up and there is nothing left anchoring the tree to the ground.

What a powerful metaphor for people’s resilience! For me, it sits alongside the common quote, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” It also affirms an idea I discuss in my work on elastic leadership: “To stretch, a rubber band needs to be anchored to something. We can only be flexible when we are clear on what is fixed.”

Sometimes, things are way more vulnerable under the surface than they appear to be. Let’s make sure our root systems are strong.

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