Absent. The roots were absent but you could still see them. When you burn a stump, you often end up with a chunk of its heart that doesn't turn to ash. The interesting thing is how the fire always seems to follow the roots, no matter how deep they go, burning away every trace of them. Sometimes, even a year later, a fire can rekindle from deep in the earth where it was banked in some hidden location. Looking down from above, you can see the faithful reproduction of the root system only it's just air. Hollows that disappear into the ground. Holding the shape of what used to live there. Faithfully mimicking the form of the living organism that, let's face it, was only using the ground as support and to pull nutrients and moisture to sustain itself.
I suppose some people have relationships like that. Where they're left with a deep-running void that marks the presence of something that once considered them essential to existence. Sometimes those winding cavities collapse. Sometimes they're filled with something else. Sometimes it just stays that way. Open to the world. An odd puzzle for anyone who happens to run across it while wandering in the woods.
Those missing root systems rarely trouble me. There's always new ground for a seedling to cultivate. I seem to stumble over the ones that are still living. The ones that are greedy for space. Pushing up through sidewalks. Shifting underground pipes. Cracking foundations. All in their need to push themselves closer to the sun. Unwilling to cede space to another thing,