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What I Have Learned From Trees

April 26, 2018
I have known many memorable trees.
Recent studies have shown that trees communicate with each other in their environment, via soil, and through myccorhizal relationships with root fungi. Amazingly, researchers have found that trees may have something similar to a nervous system, and can feel their environments. It is because of these findings, as well as our need and want to be stewards of the forest, that we recognize trees for what they are.
To some, trees are looked upon as a resource, by others a thing of beauty. By their very nature, if one sits long enough, trees instill peace in the soul regardless of how they are viewed. Whether found in an urban environment or in a forest, trees make up a greater story than any of us can share. To remember just one or perhaps a handful of incredible trees is an injustice to these incredible living beings. I can think of trees throughout the world that I've encountered, and can imagine their stories of encounters and survival.
As part of a crew that fights wildfires, I've encountered the largest tree in the world, with a modified living biome within its canopy. I've witnessed trees survive catastrophic events, while others succumb to the heat, only to release their seed from serotinous cones to perpetuate their line.
During my travels, I've witnessed the Joshua trees, and the saguaro, the Cedar of Lebanon, the ancient oak forests of Britain that were regaled by the Druids, tree species of the tropics. I've seen the cypress swamps and the ecosystems that rely upon them. Hardwood forests in the Northeast, softwood to the South. I've also understood the survivability of species as the migrated at the edge of glacial expansion, and moving back as they receded.
Through fire, volcanic activity, floods, drought and a myriad of other events, trees have remained flexible and adaptable. Civilization would not be where it is today without specific species of trees. Oak provides timber that is water-tight and structurally strong enough to sail the oceans. It also allows cooperage for kegs, allows for long-existing structures, and offers sustenance from its nut meats. A lifetime is not near long enough to experience the grandeur and the diversity of these incredible plants.
I've seen bats roosting on small branches, looking like wilted leaves, honeybees lighting here and there on their journey of pollination, mammals of all sorts seeking shelter and food amongst trees' limbs and hollows. Flying squirrels at night gliding past from tree to tree, while wild turkey find their roosts amongst the protective layers of the canopy. I've tasted the persimmon, ripe and otherwise, serviceberry, pawpaw and other tree fruits that reward the seeker with either a treat or a bitter reminder that not all things in nature are made for our tastes. I've smelled the earthy smells of decomposition, as well as the perfume of spring blooms amongst the branches. I've sought shade on a hot day under the bows of trees, and been rewarded with a hint of whisper as the breeze flitters leaves to and fro.
​To recognize just one tree is not possible for me, for I've been rewarded through the years with an ever-expanding experience. Each tree, whether grandiose or miniscule, have imparted a part of their story upon my life. As part of my journey as I witness their stories, I've met wonderful people who tell their own version of why trees are memorable, and together, we can find the peace that trees provide.


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