Learning from Trees

Last Tuesday, I woke up and did my best to head out early and shovel as the first wave of the blizzard hit. It was the last thing I wanted to do, but I kept telling myself it’s mid-March and spring is just days away!

When I walked outside I looked at the lovely fern tree in our yard. It has been on my mind quite a bit this winter. Mainly, because I didn’t cover the tree and it has been taking a beating from the extreme cold, snowy, and windy winter. I wish I had a good excuse for why the tree isn’t covered, but it's also not the first winter it hasn't been covered up.

I love this tree and it's an important part of our yard. The branches grow vertically from its base, straight up to the sky, and its green all year. Although today, it looked like it was in disarray and doing its best to make it through the storm.

                                                       3/13/18 - blizzard day

                                                       3/13/18 - blizzard day

When seeing the tree, I immediately went over and shook all the snow to lighten the load from the branches. By now, the durable tree was becoming so weighed down by the snow and was quickly losing its natural shape. As I was shaking the tree, I got this feeling I wasn’t as helpful as I intended to be and maybe doing more harm than good.

As the day moved along, I had this thought that, as difficult as it may be, maybe I should stop reacting with trying to save the tree, and let it try to get through this storm on its own terms in the natural element. So, I decided to step back and allow for natural consequences and respect the tree to respond as it will.

In Peter Wohlleben’s book, "The Hidden Life of Trees," he talks about trees being highly social and that they care and support each other to help with stabilizing one another - even in extreme weather conditions. He also talks about how they feed and support one another, without having conditions for each other, no matter what type of tree - and that while caring for others the tree is also caring and taking care of itself - seeming to realize that to feel well the trees need one another.

Suzanne Simard, an ecologist and professor, at the University of British Columbia, also talks about the trees being in network with one another, and the elaborate root systems underground are massive communication pathways. She refers to trees not being individuals, due to constantly interacting with one another and helping each other to survive. She also refers to the high levels of resiliency, among the trees, as a result of the different species and the diversity of the network. This resiliency develops through the back and forth communication among the community of plants and trees, and those that are most in need, receive carbon and wisdom from the others, including how to enhance their defense system.

Another fascinating observation Prof Simard states is from the older trees. At the end of their life they are passing along an increased amount of their resources, especially to their kin, but also to their network to support the community's growth and stability.

After learning about this research, I’m hopeful that my tree will be okay, as well as knowing its ability to self-heal has little to do with being alone.

                                                  3/15/18 - 2 days after storm

                                                  3/15/18 - 2 days after storm