Thursday, April 23, 2020

LESSONS FROM TREES – They're Not Going Anywhere Either

Like most folks, I’ve been doing a lot of walking during the social distancing mandate. Along East River Parkway I pass lots of other walkers. Runners and bikers too. But I pass even more trees…and much closer.

So that’s got me reflecting on what lessons we might learn from trees about life during a pandemic.

First, when a tree finds its reach restricted—say something impinges on its trunk, or it grows up next to a big rock—it just grows right around the obstacle or spreads its roots wider to find what it needs. And deeper too.

   We can do that.

PHOTO: Fred Hsu
If its precious view of direct sunlight gets photo-bombed by some grandstanding cottonwood, a tree simply leans over and reaches for a new window in the canopy. (In fact, I’ve seen some small tropical trees which, driven by the intense competition for light there in the jungle understory, can actually “walk” to a new pool of sunlight.)

   We can do that.

Even if it’s blown over or struck by lightning, a tree doesn’t complain, doesn’t blame, doesn’t feel sorry for itself. It simply finds a way to go on. As long as its roots remain intact, it sends up new shoots through the debris and eventually makes a new tree.

   We can do that.


Trees are not solitary beings. Other than a few species which might take advantage of a weakened neighbor, most support and communicate with each other. They actually share.

   We can do that.

Trees employ strategies to inhibit pathogens, and to isolate damage or disease. After all, most aren’t going anywhere, are they?

   We can do that.

And, perhaps most inspiring, a tree possesses near-infinite patience. It might weather wind storms, droughts, fires and floods, and still it survives. In fact, by fending off the assault it only gets stronger.

   We MUST do that.


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