"On its own, a tree cannot establish a consistent local climate. It is at the mercy of wind and weather. But together, many trees create an ecosystem that moderates extremes of heat and cold, stores a great deal of water, and generates a great deal of humidity. And in this protected environment, trees can live to very old. To get to this point, community must remain intact no matter what. If every tree were looking out only for itself, then quite a few of them would never reach old age. ..."
(The Hidden Life of Trees What They Feel, How They Communicate, Peter Wohlleben)
I was running recently through our lovely Watkinsville Woods. I slowed down (even walked) through these paths to take in the beauty that lies therein. I took a picture of this lovely tree covered in what I think to be moss. I love trees. I have had an affinity towards trees since I was a young girl. Perhaps it is because of the taled stories of the walking trees Ents in J.R.R. Tolkiens Lord of the Rings that I read when I was young. I was rapt in my imagination the idea of sitting up high talking with a grandfather like tree hundreds of years old. Perhaps it is because some of my fondest memories with my Dad and sister were when we camped in the Pisgah National Forest. Here the trees were so close, friendly...it felt almost protective and smelled so clean...like if life had a smell of vibrancy it was that.
And I imagine I am absolutely not the only human on this planet so taken with trees. This thought process led me to the discovery of this book "The Hidden Life of Trees."
I almost cried several times to read what corroborated my innate knowing of trees...they are very much alive! Not only alive but with their own intelligence about how to live in this life.
The author points out that while trees alone are individuals they are only strongest within a community.
How true for us humans as well. We are individuals. And I feel, especially in our Western society, individuality is often prized. There can be many good things about that. However, we do need community. We do need others.
I think many of us have discovered this either anew or more fully with the recent COVID shut down. One hears statistics of a rise in depression, anxiety and even suicide rates. Having to quarantine and distance is essentially a taking away of community as we knew it which had some consequences that demonstrated the necessity of community, (support and socializing).
We humans have found new ways to create community e.g. Zoom. This is where humans shine as innovators and creators demonstrating some resiliency. But what makes a community strong?
One thing I've learned from this book (and I have not completed reading it yet so there's a lot of cool stuff to learn!) is that in forests, trees will shunt resources to sickly individuals and sometimes even to a tree that would be considered invasive to their own "kind" in effort to support the community. How brave! to give of your own resources to another who is sickly and perhaps even in what appears to be complete opposition to you because you understand that the community at large is vital for a healthy existence. For a long lived life for everyone. This is strength.
Sharing resources, I feel, is a point where we humans can work to improve. I am not talking about tolerating atrocities or cruelty (forests have a way of dealing with this too! perhaps another writing). I am talking about giving resources to others less fortunate or "sickly". To help all individuals meet basic needs so that they can better thrive! Knowing that when we do this, rather than usurping those of us who have more or becoming a drain on society, those individuals join the community more fully and in time they begin to share resources too. It requires courage in thought first. And it is a way thinking that is based not in fear but in love. For many of us, myself included, it will be a process to more fully embrace this in practice. And that's ok as long as we all begin.
Back to the Forest:
"...Regular fatalities would result in many large gaps in the tree canopy, which would make it easier for storms to get inside the forest and uproot more trees. The heat of summer would reach the forest floor and dry it out. Every tree would suffer.
Every tree, therefore, is valuable to the community and worth keeping around for as long as possible. And that is why even sick individuals are supported and nourished until they recover. Next time, perhaps it will be the other way round, and the supporting tree might be the one in need of assistance."