A tree – a single stalk or column thrusting upward from the earth, rising high into the sky, often one hundred feet or more. Strong, majestic, outwardly unyielding yet surprisingly flexible, they capture our hearts and imagination. Whether a solitary tree in a park or a field or a forest of them, trees dominate the landscape in which they reside.
But peer beneath their skirt: under the rich forest floor lies an almost incomprehensible network of roots. Roots nearly as big as the tree itself, roots so small as to be mistaken for hairs, and every other size in between the two. They run in every conceivable direction – up and down and north, south, east, and west. They capture and encircle any obstacle they run across; rocks become that mush more anchorage as they wrap around them and continue to spread their fingers deeper and further into the ground.
These massive root systems are the real marvel; invisible and unseen they provide so much for the tree. They absorb and supply water and minerals to the tree for distribution throughout the tree, they store nutrients for times of stress, and they anchor the tree to the earth, holding it firmly in place through most but all the strongest of winds and weather.
Pardon my ponder here, but consider a tree as a human. Just as the tree rises up from the ground, so do we. Of course, unlike the trees we are mobile, but truly, just as the tree has roots, so do we. A huge network, a maze, of fingers and tentacles – our roots – consist of our family, friends, faith, beliefs, principles, and traditions; basically, our life’s history and lessons from all those who went before us. Those are the roots of us, the foundation of our essence.
Building on this, consider trees en masse; together they blend together seamlessly. In many cases it is impossible to differentiate one from the other as their limbs and branches intertwine and overlap resulting in a canopy that is seemingly monolithic despite the fact that the woods are decidedly not homogenous, often consisting of a dozen species or more.
An individual tree rises high from the earth and spreads branches in every direction in order to maximize leaf growth for food and nutrients. Even in a stand of hundred trees, all of the same species, all with identical leaves and bark, the look of each tree will vary due to its own unique number and orientation of limbs and branches. It is their nature to grow these limbs in order to live. And given three oaks, for example, all planted by themselves in a huge field with ample distance between them and nothing else growing around them, the three oaks would very likely grow to almost identical looking shapes and configuration. Only a close-up inspection would allow you to differentiate one from the other. Nature at its finest.
But crowd those three oaks into the midst of a huge stand of trees and they will each grow into something completely different and unique, this due to the ever-crowded canopy above along with the intrusion of all the branches and limbs from surrounding trees. The contortion of limb growth and tilting of trunks in the constant effort to attain just a sliver more of sunlight produce vastly different stances for every tree. This then, may be our first proof of nurture versus nature, where the surrounding environment influences who/what we are.
And after all, aren’t we all so alike and yet so completely different – person to person, culture to culture, species to species? I’ve written often of a single grain of sand and a desert, always focusing on how every moment in our lives is similar to a grain of sand, each colored, hued, and shaded differently. And as the grains of sand accumulate, they form a deeply and uniquely varied blend of colors that become our personal tapestry. But they also tie into this idea; that each grain of sand is remarkably similar on its own, but when blended together with trillions of other grains, the result is an infinitely variable melding of colors and patterns due to the ground terrain, wind effects, and similar environmental impacts.
Yes, I am rambling again here! One of my favorite activities whether physically, such as hiking, or cognitively such as this offering, rambling is so good for the soul. I sincerely hope you take some time to ramble dear reader, whether roaming in the forest or wandering in the thoughts and ideas deep in your mind. Stay well!!