Nurse Logs

Yancey Strickler
2 min readJul 12, 2020

Last week I took an internet vacation. I didn’t go anywhere. I just wasn’t online.

I spent a lot of my time in the woods. I recently moved to the Pacific Northwest and have fallen in love with the trees. They’re incredible creatures.

You see a lot of these fallen giants covered in new growth.

This particular one had a sign next to it.

It reads:

“Nurse log.” This old fallen tree is now a “nurse log.” Abundant plant life feeding on the rotting log will accelerate its decay and thereby hasten the creation of new plant life in the surrounding area…

While the tree is standing, nothing can grow underneath it. There’s not enough sunlight. But when the tree falls and becomes a nurse log, the forest floor becomes rich with light, soil, and diverse life.

A towering Douglas fir will live for 500 years, but less than 5% of it’s living matter. The rest is the husk and support structure that lifts the tree into the sky. Once it falls and becomes a nurse log, the decaying husk gives life for another 500 years. Where there was one tree, many forms of life begin to grow.

Is that what’s happening now? Is our world becoming a nurse log?

A way of life that’s towered over us — a regime based on short-term individualism — is falling. One of the biggest trees in the human forest is buckling and plummeting to Earth at this very second. We don’t yet know which way things will fall. It’s a scary moment.

Like a tree, the system that’s in power has a lot of structure supporting it. But also like a tree, there’s not much life in it. It’s more husk than living organism.

A way of life is ending. An empire is falling. But things falling isn’t the end. It just marks a new beginning. Even a dead tree can create new life.



Yancey Strickler

Author of “This Could Be Our Future: A Manifesto for a More Generous World”; Cofounder of Kickstarter; Bentoist;