big trees,

“a recurrent dream” (think old illustrators' dense, quaintly squeezed fantasyscapes — the lure of crowded, cloud-reaching rocks, waves, trees; or is it a back-to-childhood nostalgia for “when the trees were big”?), a powerful archetype possibly as old as the treetops habitat of remote human ancestors but only recently — in several abortive attempts — crossing the line into reality.  ■    The early “skyscrapers of a post-urban civilization” remain a towering vestige of the “greedy and cavalier” genomics boom — an exhibit of a “prehistoric” (predating both Change and modern gardening) large-scale genomic intervention in the wild. It was tempting to so visibly celebrate the new transformative powers: experiments with arboreal gigantism — considered reasonably safe back then — leaked into unregulated cultivation; families, subcultures were camping around the saplings eager to grow, worship, colonize the Big Trees (flight would not appear until much later, though). Now, surviving tree fandoms are known for isolatedness, elaborate lores, emotional attachment to their “treedoms”; the first-generation giants stand fragile, obese, “at best fragmentarily alive” — depend on constant upkeep and resuscitation, suffer an absurd amount of damage from wind, precipitation, even earthquakes: legacy of a hopelessly systemic, hasty, superficial time — “monuments to impatience.”  ■    After a hiatus, the “world tree” inspiration is back on the agenda but soberly so: its no longer a single universal genome to be hybridized but a symbiome — a “calculatedly lifeworthy,” constantly rejuvenating, “deathless as a whole” evosystem of thousands of reengineered species (plants, animals, microbiota) interacting in multiply redundant, weakly asystemic ways. Millions of mutualist or parasitic relationships in woodland biocommunities have been searched, developed, coordinated, with enormous effort spent on orchestration, altitudinal layering (from rainforest to alpine), grinding the joints; as most artificial symbiomes, the new Big Tree grows but cannot procreate: planting a new instance requires laborious manual interseeding.

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