The Thistle - An E-Newsletter of Scotch College, Perth, Western Australia

Redwoods and Wolves

Just like trees do, as we grow up, we must put roots down. We need something which can support and anchor us; when conditions are against us, we need something to hold us in place. The taller we grow, the stronger the root system required to hold us in place. What is interesting is that there are two sorts of trees – those who put down deep tap roots, and those that have a shallow but widespread root system.

Redwoods are from the latter group. These are amazing trees – they grow up to 115 metres tall, have a diameter of around eight metres  and they live for around 1500 years. Their bark can be 30cm thick. And yet, for some of the oldest and biggest living things on the planet, their roots are relatively shallow. There is no tap root to anchor them deep into the earth. The roots actually only go down two to four metres, and yet, these trees rarely fall over. They withstand strong winds, earthquakes, fires, storms, and prolonged flooding. How can something weighing over 400 tonnes , reaching over 100 metres in height, and living for many centuries, remain standing with roots only going down about three metres ?

The answer is that their root system is intertwined with the root systems of neighbouring Redwood trees; they literally hold each other up. The trees grow relatively close together and are dependent on each other for nutrients. They form a kind of subterranean tartan with their roots, crisscrossing and interlocking across a wide area, so that they support each other and this, combined with their proximity, makes them much harder to blow over.

Wolves are amazing creatures. I watched part of a documentary on them a while ago and it seems that they have been very harshly dealt with by the Brothers Grimm and other fairytale writers. Wolves howl when a member of the pack is removed – perhaps not such stunning news to many. But I never realised that there is one wolf which howls louder and longer than the others when another wolf is removed; they have a buddy system. When their buddy is removed, a wolf will call louder and longer so that the removed wolf can find its way back to the pack. Even stranger, when a bowl of food is put down between two wolves, they will share it without fighting, even when one is the pack leader and the other is a junior member. With other dogs, and dare I say with many people, where there is a dominant dog, that dog will eat all the food and the junior dog knows to keep its distance.

At our best, human beings behave in ways that mirror these examples from the natural world. A simple yet beautiful example was the way so many Australians turned out on Anzac Day to stand silently in their driveways at dawn. On that morning, I was fortunate to raise the flag at school and lower it to half-mast as various versions of the Last Post floated their way across the suburb.  Driveway vigils are representative of that link which binds us together and a symbol of the respect people have for our past. It is a sign of gratitude for what we have, even in difficult times.

The human capacities to care and support have been on display so often in these past weeks, and yet the examples we see should be reminders, exhortations even, to each of us to do what we can. Perhaps this is the best thing we can do for our children in times like this. A close second is to be compassionate wherever possible – to ourselves as well as others.

We have our own amazing tartan network operating just beneath the surface of life here at Scotch, made up of so many people who are connected by their willingness to support your child and help to provide stability, not just now, but always. If you are concerned about your child at any stage, please let us know sooner rather than later. As a first point of contact, you can speak to your child's classroom teacher in Junior School, their Homeroom teacher in Middle School, or their House Head in Senior School. You can also speak to one of our School Psychologists – Shauna Lipscombe or Jon Marginis in the Senior School; Kim Lorimer in the Middle School; and Jon  Marginis in the Junior School.