The Essence of Tree Roots

Are tree roots to bring in analogy of what happens on election day?


The wisdom of life, the book with all its guidelines and secrets, the codex, can actually be found in the forest. Codex is derived from the Latin caudex, meaning “trunk of a tree”. The lowest part of the trunk, that connect to the roots, is where two worlds meet in the binding principles of life, that of ‘above ground’ and that of ‘under ground’.

It is here where the soul of the forest can be found, the market place where all traffic streams from earth (upwards, water, minerals) and sun and air (downwards sugars, after photosynthesis) are exchanged, the roundabout on the highway of life.

It is this meeting point where growth and development are coordinated, the place where past, present and future meet, the counterpoint where life starts. Vincent van Gogh painted this meeting point, Tree Roots, as only he was able to do so: colourful and straight to the heart. He understood. It was his last painting, ‘digging deep’ into the essence of life.

Translating, transposing or transforming the scene from forest to society. Is it a thought that an election day can be considered as the trunk/root meeting point of our democracy, and therefore be perceived as the soul of the ecosystem of society?

The upward stream – empowering votes followed by (tax) money – can be imagined as that of water and minerals. In the downward stream giving power to the trees – the public leaders and politicians – to build, protect and care. It is a dream scenario. Daily practice proofs otherwise.

In finding the tone of city and society it is here, at the trunk-roots interface where the determinants and indicators can be found in the process of democracy, of governing and be governed. Studying the promises before and the realisations after election day creates insights into the tone. The trunk and the roots lead us to the codex of measuring the tone.


Gogh, V.  van (1890) Tree Roots [oil on canvas]. Amsterdam: Van Gogh Museum.

View on Delft: ecosystem ‘city’

How a painter catch the essence of the city.


This painting of the city of Delft, made around 1660, is from the master hand of Johannes Vermeer. More than inspiring. A place to live. Around 360 years back in time. With View of Delft Vermeer created an iconic image of the city: the city as an entity, the city as an ecosystem.

The overarching cloudy sky gives the city the insight and dimension that it is part of a larger world, maybe that of nature. It puts Delft in perspective. It humbles. At the same time, the citizens in the foreground remind you as watcher that the painting is also about everyday life. It sketches the city itself as comprehensive and offering a higher dimension to its inhabitants. That of a place where you may belong, where you can live, love, meet and work.

View on Delft is a holistic image in which Vermeer shows us the multiple layers of the ecosystem ‘city’: citizen, group, street, neighbourhood and city. In ecological terms he shows organism, group, niche, habitat and system at the same time. And that under the clouds of a much larger dimension, the sky, the world. A masterpiece.


Vermeer, Johannes (1660-1661) View on Delft [oil on canvas]. The Hague: Mauritshuis.

The Tone of Liverpool

About a time travel and catching the tone of a city.


The painter John Atkinson Grimshaw is best known for his moody urban landscapes. This impressionistic painting of Liverpool in 1875 is an inspiration in how tones, spheres, moods, perspectives and contexts can be found and fixed.

This scene is impressionistic and direct at the same time. It is easy to imagine you actually are there, transcended with your personal time-machine 147 years backwards to one of the most developed cities of Europe, Liverpool. Talking of ‘finding to tone’, this painting is an accurate example. No words are needed to describe what the tone of the city was.


Grimshaw, J.A. (1875) Liverpool Docks From Wapping Wharf. Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia.