Wounds Retained

image This weekend I hiked on the Bear  Trap Trail in the Mill Creek Preserve on the Monterey Peninsula.

The peninsula normally has a relatively brief wet season followed by a very long dry season. As a result, fire is very much a part of the local ecology, as the brush that grows in the rainy season is quickly transformed into a fuel source.
Despite this, the preserve is full of tall redwoods. Many of these trees are scarred by fire, some to the point of being hollowed out at the base.
image These trees are survivors, and hardy ones at that. The name of the trail and the dogged persistence of these trees made me think of one of my favorite tournament types for SCA fighters and fencers, the Bear Pit, with Wounds Retained.

In a Bear Pit tournament, a pair of combatants enters the list, and they fight until one of them is eliminated. In the course of combat, a contestant may lose the use of a limb, via touch in the case of fencers, or a sufficiently heavy hit for the armored fighters. The winner of a round holds the field, and immediately engages the next contestant. In an ordinary Bear Pit, the victor regains the use of limbs lost in the previous round, but as the name implies, with Wounds Retained the victor faces the next challenger with the injuries accumulated from all previous rounds. Needless to say, it is much harder to hold the field for very many rounds this way.

imageThese colossal old trees do exactly that, holding the forest after multiple fires. They bear the scars and go on. But the survivors of Bear Trap Trail are unlike the victors of either type of Bear Pit, or maybe a little like both. They retain those wounds, limbs that are lost stay lost.

Over the years, though, something else happens. They continue to grow around their huge hideous scars, and somehow they find a way not just to survive, but to thrive.

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