Ashes to Ashes

The tree had grown from a sapling in the savannah of Northern Ghana, surrounded by small shrubs and, at a distance, by other trees. Throughout its lifetime, it had absorbed water from the ground, water which had fallen each rainy season and dissolved metal salts as it soaked through the soil. By the miracle of photosynthesis, the tree had also gathered carbon dioxide from the air and combined it with the moisture from the ground and the metal salts to make wood, bark, leaves - more and more tree-stuff as it grew larger and reached for the sky against the competition from all the other plantlife around it.

As I looked at it, most of the tree had gone, changed entirely and gone. It had caught fire, maybe from a lightning strike, possibly set on fire by poachers making camp. It had then smouldered away, the carbon in its various tree-stuffs changing back to carbon dioxide and escaping into the air. The metals which had formed a small part of the stuff of the tree, now lay on the ground as white oxides, showing the shape of the trunk and large branches rather like a huge photograph invented by nature.

When the rains came, the ash would be washed down into the earth, to be absorbed by other plantlife. The carbon dioxide in the air would be re-organised by other plants into new shapes and structures. Such is the nature of life on earth, and as I looked at the ash on the ground, I pondered on our part in it.

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