Clever Trees

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In nature the environment determines much of the success of all life forms. Has the weather been suitable to growing the plants that small animals feed on? If so, then there should be plenty of smaller animals for the larger animals to eat. Most creatures and plants are on relatively short life cycles compared to human beings. Some exceptions are swans, giant tortoises, turkey buzzards, and box turtles, which can exceed a hundred years. The crown for longevity belongs to the plant world in the form of the trees. These denizens of the forest can reach 5000 years of age. Less than twenty miles from my home is a tree that was living during the time of Christ.

As much as mammals, reptiles, birds and fish must fight for survival, the same is true for trees. If the seed falls too close to the parent’s trunk, it will be stunted for lack of light, if it survives at all. They must fight against disease, animals that would burrow and hollow its insides, to the slaughter of whole forest wholesale by the growth of the human population. But without them, humans or any living thing that needs oxygen can’t live. As humans struggle to adapt and live, they learn. What if the same was true of trees?

In the Lord of the Rings Trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien, in the Two Towers there is a race of tree herders called “Ents”. They are trees themselves but have the power of intelligence and communication to look out for the other trees. I’m not saying it could or couldn’t be true, I ask more from a philosophical standpoint of what would we learn if we struggle with life for a thousand years? Maybe even if we saw five generations come and go like the old oak tree on your street?

Would it be that grow strong and straight, so our canopy of leaves is high enough to get plenty of sunshine? Would it be that we need to give ourselves space to thrive, without crowding our neighbor? Would it be that we should stand firm in the face of adversity, yet be pliable enough to bend like a tree in a storm, lest we snap and break? Would it be that as a group we can weather a storm better than a tree alone? Would it be that our diversity gives us strength? Would it just be that tomorrow is another day? Would we be clever trees?



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