Marja-Leena Rathje
Home ::: roots







We are renovating a section of our garden next to the new wall/fence put up by the builders of the new home next door. With much sweat and brawn, husband dug up several stumps of trees that were cut down years ago but hidden under our laurel hedge which had just been removed. I became interested in the photographic possibilties in the textures and shapes of the disintegrating wood and the roots. I'm glad I missed seeing the termites which quickly buried themselves deeper into the rotting wood as they emerged into daylight. I did see our resident crows investigating them with keen interest but unfortunately too late for a tasty meal.

Added Sunday, June 24th: Today, as I was cutting up a dead shrub which had not survived a move last fall, I was struck by its gorgeous root formation. Then I recalled the beautiful filigrees of blood vessels and nerves in bodies, as I wrote some years ago about an exhibition called Body Worlds. Isn't that an amazing similarity between humans and plants?! (Sorry, no photo as I was too busy to come in for the camera.)

Marja-Leena | 22/06/2012 | 10 comments
themes: Nature, Photoworks


I don't like the thought of termites! But then I'm a squeamish north European, we get a bit funny about sharing the world anything creepy, crawly, slithery, stingy, bloodsucking, house-eating or whatever. Though we did hear that termites had got as far as south Brittany. Will you burn the stumps eventually? Things that have been buried like that are particularly fascinating I think.

If you have some space in your yard I wonder if these roots might not allow you to practice a little hugelkultur? I happened across the the idea some weeks ago but since I have no garden all I could do was remember it as a fine idea.

Roots really are fascinating to look at, aren't they? Your pictures are so detailed it's easy to think of them as tree brains. Still, I'm glad the termites had gone by the time you arrived with camera in hand.

Ack, that's an impressive amount of labor! I can hardly think of the interesting images because when we moved here we grubbed up a lot of old yews that had been planted along the front of the house as if it were a suburban house and not an 1808 house in dire need of a cottage garden. Whew, it was awful!

Am I missing out somewhere? This is the third time (admittedly over three years or so) I have had to re-register to send you a comment - a different process each time as far as I can remember. Should I be going in for all this security? If not, what risks am I taking?

Er, herm (Clears throat). I hesitate to advise on artistic matters (Oh, what the heck, I've never hesitated before) but I'm sure I've seen roots like yours turned into artistic objects elsewhere. But in making them more ganglia-like I think there was a further stage in the preparation: removal of dirt with a high-pressure water hose. As a result the final object becomes even more three-dimensional with all sorts of extra sinister cavities. As I recall such things can sell for big bucks. Perhaps I'm being too crass. I usually am.

The thirteenth year... No, they were planted by owners who had the idea that one plants a string of bushes along a foundation, though that wasn't the least bit appropriate for the house. So they were not a bit rotten, though the roots were huge, and they did not want to give up on life at all! And who can blame them?