every valley shall be lifted up
and every mountain and hill be made low
the uneven ground shall become level
and the rough places a plain
~ Isaiah ~
Cast haphazardly across the ancient trail that leads north out of La Mancha is a wrist-thick rope of hard, weather-aged wood. It looks like a dead branch, which is why I stepped over it dozens of times without seeing it. But this is no branch. It is a living Juniper rhizome, probing its way along the fracturing layers of limestone that form the foundation of First Mountain.
Behold, Juniperus Perditor Mundi: Destroyer of Worlds. Gaze upon her name with wonder, for she is tearing First Mountain down, and there is nothing anyone can do to stop her.
Commonly called “Cedar” by locals, Perditor Mundi specializes in breaking rock and stealing water. What you see above ground is only a third of the tree. Its massive root system can bore through twenty-five feet of rock in search of water. And if nothing is found below, the roots can extend over one hundred feet laterally to steal water from neighboring ecosystems. That’s what the root I found is doing. It’s slipping across a rock shelf to take water from the other side of the trail.
The gentle, almost nurturing way Juniperus does her work is chilling to consider. Tiny probing rootlets search constantly for cracks in the limestone. Once a root finds a crack, the game is over. It’s just a matter of time and leverage. The mountain swells with every rainfall, sucking water into the deep rocks through a network of deadly roots. For weeks after a rain the rock faces weep. Within their tears, the marrow of the mountain erodes into the Valley. And when one Juniperus dies, the next sends her roots down the same channels to continue their Magnum Opus.
In five hundred years Juniperus can move a rock from the top of First Mountain to the bottom.
In five million years there will be no First Mountain.
Imagine that you and I could speed up time, such that centuries fly by in seconds. Imagine that we watch together the rise and fall of La Mancha. We see the surface roil as plants and animals squirm and die in the mulch of creation. We see rock layers crack and splinter and fragment and wash into the vast floodplain to the north. Human tribes come and go, scratching out a living on the mountain, arranging stones into circles that grow faint and sink into the soil. We see the Wizard arrive, and we watch modern La Mancha explode in a blaze of light and music that comes and goes so quickly we can hardly believe it was real. And then, in an instant, a future hand pulls the sword from the stone at the top of the Tower.
And just like that, the Wizard’s time here will be over.
What happens next in La Mancha is not my story to tell. But I can say with confidence that Juniperus Perditor Mundi will be part of that story.
She will always be here. And She will never cease her labors until First Mountain lies broken at her feet.