People And Trees

                                                                                              Fallen tree still leafy.

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 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 to reach as quickly as possible 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.

One trunk, two trees
Married trees

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.

Largest Compton Oak seen at Colonial Williamsburg, VA
Largest Compton Oak, seen at Colonial Williamsburg, VA

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 the root system will die.

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.

Pink Dogwood
Pink Dogwood

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.

Old backyard in fall.
Shady beautiful fall trees in my old backyard.

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.

March 09 070                                                                                                 Dogwood in winter

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 wondered at where their minds may be when they sit quietly and stare. I want to believe they are reliving or remembering things 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.

Halloween 09 038


27 thoughts on “People And Trees

  1. Well no one would ever call me a tree hugger, but there are trees in my life that I like a lot and admire from time to time. The huge magnolia in my parents’ front yard and the pecans there too. I know who planted them and when generations before I was ever born. The black walnut tree down against the edge of the woods that my Uncle Stancil planted about 1938. I’ve eaten many walnuts off that tree, especially cooked into my Mom’s pound cakes. I love the live oaks, swept by the winds down at Fort Fisher. Yeah, maybe I am a tree hugger although I cut down probably a hundred of them this past summer, clearing a piece of property for a friend. Good story, excellent anology. Kudos for this piece!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Mark, thank you for your comments!! My grandmother had a large magnolia tree in her front yard, I remember as a child. Imagine my surprise when I went back 20 years later and saw how huge it was!! One question though, how do you take the husk off the black walnuts!!?? Wow!


  2. Thanks for your comments. I am a great lover of trees. Unfortunately, living in a sixth/seventh floor apartment, we are restrained. You have noted that the name of my blog is “Manning Tree” – that name has something to do with preservation of trees. Loved reading your blog of Sept 27.


  3. What a dandy post! I happen to live in a beautiful neighborhood where we all are surrounded by trees. I see and hear them each and every day. You might say they speak to me. As the wind takes hold of their leaves a symphony comes to life. I love the way it distinguishes itself from all other outside noises; at least it plays that way with my ears. During the year I watch our trees at every stage, throughout every season. That’s why I loved your analogy so much. Very poignant. Thanks for sharing!!!

    Liked by 1 person

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