I am, and have been for a long time a “tree hugger.”
Being a teenager in the 60s, I was a “flower child” of sorts. I loved living things and nature. I have always had a special bond with trees.
Trees are a life form I love and respect. These sentinels of nature have “seen” history in the making, provided lumber for building the boats that made history, homes that housed historical people and events for centuries. Trees hold the records of the effects of climate changes recorded in their rings.
Trees are more like people than we realize. Think about it. They have seedlings, which often grow in the shade of their “parent tree.” If the seeds land too close to the parent tree, they may not grow at all or may grow up spindly and tall. Their height increases as quickly as possible to reach the sun’s light to help compensate for the lack of nutrients in the soil when there are other plants growing nearby.
Some of the little ones survive but few ever achieve the size or health of their parents if they are rooted at their parents’ “feet.” (Interesting analogy, huh!) Just like children pampered and sheltered too often from the storms of life who grow up weak and dependent.
Some seeds who are blown by the wind further from their genetic donors, survive better. They are toughened by the hardships they encounter: drought, erosion, pests, weeds, weather.
All kids end up in stressful situations financially or emotionally. If they have established roots firmly in their own personality, received the sunshine of good friends, the nourishment of education or training and periodic support, emotional or otherwise, from their parents, they grow to mature, productive adults. They have developed their own lives, apart from their parent “trees”, independent from them.
I have seen two trees growing from the same trunk and roots. I think of married couples or soul mates when I see these. Their lives are joined but have two separate lives, talents, interests or jobs, but they go through everything together drawing from the roots of their relationship for strength.
Some trees have lost large limbs or become gnarled and twisted by some act of nature or man. As people face the storms of life, war, aging, pain, and loss they too may become gnarled and twisted or lose limbs just like the trees.
Trees, like people, having missed out on some part of their basic needs, or been injured, diseased or unhealthy have the appearance of a physically stressed tree. Some people who have suffered much also show their hardships in their bodies or on their faces.
Some trees have full “heads” of leaves with a beautiful skeleton of branches, these trees have weathered the same storms just like other trees but something gives them the strength they need to flourish and survive. Some people are like these trees and make the best of bad situations. Growing from the circumstances they encounter instead of internalizing their environment.
Occasionally a huge oak or other full-grown tree is uprooted by the winds of a tornado or storm. You may have seen the bottom of a tree exposed but half of the roots still connected to the soil. The tree that has lost their root system will die. We all need to have “roots” of some kind to help us get through the hard times.
Other trees get blown over and rest on the limbs or trunks of another tree, their roots still barely connected to the earth. These trees continue to put out green leaves, still clinging to life, while supported by their neighbors.
Interestingly there are people who, even though their lives have been torn apart by pain, bad decisions or someone else, bounce back with time and keep on living and growing, supported by the love of their family or community, yet living on their own root system.
They seem to gain from the bad experiences and go on with their lives, wiser and stronger. Then there are those who can’t ever get back up to their previous level of health or happiness and need the continuing support of their family, being unable to contribute or not having anything they can contribute to those around them. Some of these people have been so traumatized that they lack the skills to survive on their own.
Trees go through the different seasons. We start out as seedlings in the spring or beginnings of our lives, like seeds growing their roots, we develop the “roots” of basic survival skills like walking and talking. In the summer we begin to experience more of life as we go to school, get married, and live life as adults.
Then fall begins and we may experience a slowing in the pace of our lives. We retire, enjoy the fruits of our labors hopefully. As the trees’ sap retreats from their tops causing the leaves to turn, likewise as we grow older, our blood flow diminishes and we start to show the aging process with graying hair and wrinkles.
Last is winter, when the trees “hibernate” storing their nutrients for next spring, looking bare and dead but still very much alive. We also enter a winter in our lives. We hopefully, will have “very much alive”active minds, even though our bodies may grow older and more frail. We will prepare ourselves for the new life that will come when we pass on.
In the winter of their lives some elderly people seem to not be present in the here and now, suffering some form of dementia, but I wonder where their minds may be when they sit quietly and stare. I want to believe they are reliving or remembering events from their lives. Who knows?
We, like trees and every other living thing, have our own cycle of life. It is good to love and live and see and smell and taste and walk and move. We all need to remember how fortunate we are while we are able to enjoy life and go out and look for the beauty and lessons to be learned by our neighbors in nature. One last thing: Go hug a tree and look up into its branches and feel a sense of wonder and kinship.