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Xylem

by fortis


Author's Note: This is a creative researched essay. Meaning: you're supposed to be entertained AND educated. If you don't feel like you were both, then I did something wrong. Also: I don't have to site sources. Finally, I'd like to give credit where credit is due, this essay wouldn't have been possible with out Vasticity. Thanks dude.

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Trees are magic. We have historical proof of this. They feature prominently in several mythoses. Take, for example, the Norse Yggdrasil, the mighty tree that holds the nine worlds together. In the Ancient Egyptian story, “Tale of Two Brothers,” Bata places his heart on a tree’s blossom for safe keeping: when his wife and her lover cut down the tree, Bata dies. The ancient Greek city of Dodona is purported to have had the first oracle, a black dove settling on an oak tree. “Tree” is the 220th word in the King James Bible. It appears 301 times in the old testament, and 67 times in the New. Not to mention how many prophets had to tear apart “groves” where Canaanites worshiped Ashtoreth, one of their sensual goddesses. The list goes on and on.

Perhaps people throughout history connected so strongly to trees because of their shape. Tree roots and branches mirror one another, with the soil as a reflecting point. Both split and fork again and again, creating a dendritic pattern. This same sort of pattern can be found in rivers, window frost, and even within our own body as veins and nerve endings. Trees not only mirror themselves, they provide an insight into what our inner selves look like. The dendritic pattern happens wherever there is flow. Both trees and humans are both made mostly of water, so it stands to reason that we’d both consist of dendritic patterns. But where we know how blood runs through our veins using the pump of our heart, trees have a much more difficult task of delivering water without the aid of pumps and valves and moving parts.

The xylem is a system of tiny tubes that transports water through a tree. The xylem itself is located in the very center of a root, and thrusts all the way up through the trunk to the leaves, against all odds. Transporting water up that high is a nigh Sisyphean task. The water should boil. The water should stop after only ten meters. The water defies gravity and the concept of a vacuum, using negative atmospheric pressure to enter the leaf. The tree deserves a patent for creating such a mind-boggling way of water transportation. The Roman aqueduct seems behind-its-time when one considers xylem evolved around 450 million years ago.

To properly understand the way the xylem functions, you must first imagine yourself in a minimum-wage newspaper-delivery job in the back-country. If you have a hard time imagining that for yourself, I have provided a first-hand account of what it was like for my dear friend who seems to be an avid collector and connoisseur terrible jobs. I asked him which job was most life-draining, and he answered with absolute certainty that it was his newspaper delivery job.

“One of the most annoying things about delivering papers was the complete and total self-sufficient aspect of it. I mean, for barely above minimum wage + 40 hr./week pay you were expected to do everything. You had to chart out where each delivery would go yourself, and they would never help you with payments on car stuff.”

The xylem grows with the tree, forging its own path. This is one of the reasons why it is able to actually deliver the water to the top of the tree. If the xylem had not always been filled with water, there might be pockets of air inside. This would spell disaster because the only thing keeping the water from boiling in negative atmospheric pressure is the fact that it’s 100% liquid.

“The other most annoying part was the weather. One time there was this windstorm. If you were like in a field, and there was a tree, it was on the ground no matter what. So I had to figure out a way to get around all these things by myself. I had to come up with like ways to go backwards and around, which wasn't possible for some of them.”

Like the mail or newspaper, rain or shine or axe to the leg, the deliveries must come through. The leaves demand water, the xylem must fulfill, or the whole tree withers and dies. And when it finally does reach the leaf, hundreds of water molecules evaporate, just for the chance to take in a single carbon dioxide molecule. Most of the xylem’s work disappears into thin air.

“In terms of soul-sucking, the lack of sleep was obviously the biggest thing. I mean it's an every-night thing, and you have to be paying attention, so your brain truly doesn't get rest.”

Just like my Ex-Nespaper-Delivery friend was by the time he quit, Xylem is dead inside. Yes, the very foundation, the very center of a tree’s life force is dead, the cells empty. Perhaps it’s because it also never sleeps. Even in the winter, it just slows down.

“At one point during winter I got stuck in a probably 3-foot snow drift and just decided to go to sleep. When I woke up, there was like, no indication that there had ever been a road there. It looked like Hoth in Star Wars or something. Coincidentally that was also the time where I decided I was done with that job.”

Sometimes the xylem just quits in the winter as well. It might just burst if it gets too cold. Go out into a forest during winter, away from the busy noise of the city, and stand there, with snow up to your knees. You might hear cracking sounds, even though there’s no movement between the ice-cloaked trunks. These crackles are the frozen water in the xylem bursting through those dead cells. Some trees get rid of excess water to prevent this bursting, some load up on sugar, and some deserve yet another patent by taking advantage of a process known as super-cooling. The only way I can explain how trees understand super-cooling is “magic.” Maybe the people in ancient time weren’t so wrong after all.


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115 Reviews


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Fri Apr 21, 2017 5:14 am
Featherstone wrote a review...



Hello! Fea here to review!

So I liked the content and the delivery! It kept me entertained, and it was also pretty clear. The quotes were a great addition, as well as the comparison to a boring delivery job. Being interested in fantasy and mythology, it caught my attention when you said the three simple words 'trees are magic'.

Coming back to magic in the last paragraph was spot-on!

Honestly, I didn't see anything I thought needed changing. Nice job!

Keep calm and keep writing!

~ Fea




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Sun Apr 16, 2017 9:04 pm
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Lavvie wrote a review...



Hello fortlove!

I think this is a very interesting essay! I'm not sure if you sought to do this for a school assignment or just for the sake of exploring a creative research essay. Anyway, I think it's a fabulous approach to something that can be a little tedious, and I think that you're on the right track.

I think that the content of the first and last paragraph, which hinted at the presence of some indescribable magic to explain trees' functions, was spot-on. By highlighting the magical qualities attributed to trees throughout history and its myths, you instantly attract the reader's attention to an essay they might not have initially dared read because, well, it's an essay. That being said, I think the biggest obstacle for you in this essay was the issue of flow, transition, and generally having the different ideas work together.

Let's start with the first paragraph. While I think the content was good, it felt a little all over the place. The transition between sentences was not there which made it feel clunky and almost a little forced, unfortunately. This generally applies to the rest of the essay. I think if you work on weaving your ideas together a bit more artfully, you might be more successful in retaining that entertainment quality of the creative research essay, which lacks a bit because of the lack of flow.

I was troubled by the coupling of the "trees are magic" concept and the "xylem like newspaper delivery" concept. Magic and newspaper delivery (unless it's the Daily Prophet) are so far from each other, that I felt the stretch of trying to connect those ideas. It really dampened the entertainment aspect of the essay to me. While I understand that you're trying to describe the process and I do agree that the newspaper delivery analogy is suitable, it is just so far away from the magic of trees you were describing earlier. In a way, this is my lamest critique for you in that I cannot offer an alternative idea, except that maybe you should find a different analogy or work on it more to really weave it in more successfully.

Related to the newspaper delivery, I think the testimony is important to establishing this as an essay. However, I would encourage you to edit the testimony of words and phrases like "like" and "I mean" so that it flows better with your own writing. I know you probably want to maintain the testimonies' authenticity as much as possible, but do so not at the expense of the success of your own essay.

I have a few other nitpicky things:

The xylem is a system of tiny tubes that transport


Because "system" is the noun in which the verb refers to, "transport" should actually be "transports".

Transporting water up that high is a nigh Sisyphean task


I think that "nigh a Sisyphean task" would read a little better, but perhaps that is a point of personal preference.

The Roman aqueduct seems behind-its-time


Why did you make "behind its time" one word? It's a little strange.

have provided a first-hand account of what it was like for my dear friend who seems to be an avid collector and connoisseur terrible jobs


of terrible jobs ;)

Just like my Ex-Nespaper-Delivery


Newspaper

Overall, fortlove, I enjoyed exploring the concept of a creative research essay, in which the formal title is new to me. At times, I felt that you were successful. In fact, I think your individual sentences and some paragraphs succeed in achieving that balance between informative and entertaining, but often the sum of those sentences seemed to fall just short of its goal because of the transition struggle. Flow was certainly lacking, but I am certain you are capable of tweaking this essay a bit more to rectify that small issue. ;)

Let me know if you have any questions!

Lots of love,
Lavvie





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