Tree roots

Vincent van Gogh (1890). Tree Roots [oil on canvas]. Amsterdam: Van Gogh Museum.

Jack Kruf

The wisdom of life, the book with all its guidelines and secrets, the codex, can actually be found in the forest. Codex is derived from the Latin caudex, meaning “trunk of a tree”. The lowest part of the trunk is where two worlds meet in the binding principles of life, that of ‘above ground’ and that of ‘under ground’, the roots.

We, humans, admire the trees mostly when they are in their glory days, with coloured leaves like now in autumn, with impressive rising columns, overhanging branches and the abundance of forest fruits like nuts and mushrooms. The basis of all this beauty though is where the ultimate exchange is happening, the build-up place, there where trunk and the root meet. It is here where the soul of the forest can be found. It is this market place where all traffic streams from earth (upwards, water, minerals) and sun and air (downwards, photosynthesis, carbon) are exchanged, the roundabout on the trunk highway of life.

It is the meeting point where growth and development are coordinated, the place where past, present and future meet, the counterpoint where life starts. Vincent van Gogh painted this meeting point, as only he can paint this. He understood the very essence. More than that. It was his last painting, ‘digging deep’ into the essence of life.

Translating, transposing or transforming the scene from forest to society. Is it a thought that an election day can be considered as the trunk/root meeting point of our democracy, and therefore be perceived as the soul of the ecosystem of society?