Monday, November 25, 2013

A Moment in the Life of a Tree

Among the forgettable Norway maples making up most of the trees that lounge around my property, there are a few natives, including a tall, stately white ash.  When the wind was at its height two days ago, I found myself out in the backyard watching it sway and dance in gusts that surely topped 40 miles per hour.  I wondered how much of this the tree could take. Then I reflected on the life of a tree--a life of immobility, of standing against whatever came--unlike for most animals, for a tree there is no escape.

I don't know how old the tree is, no idea how many annual rings lie under that bark, but the tree is about two feet in diameter at chest height, and stands over sixty feet tall.  It has undoubtedly stood against dozens of storms stronger than this in its decades as a full-sized adult.  I relaxed.

How do I know she's over sixty feet?  The rake leaning against the base is six feet tall,
and I estimate the easily-measured part at ten rakes, and there is at least five or ten feet more.

Whenever you look at a big tree, you are necessarily looking at a survivor. You don't get to be a grand-dad like that if you can't take a bit of wind, the odd week of sub-zero cold, the ravages of winter moths, a month of severe drought now and again, and a few false springs that first encourage you to flower and then kill all your flowers. You don't get to be a grand-dad tree if you're merely human.



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