Describe a Tree

Writing practice 6/28/2017

Describe a Tree

It would be easy to use colors, shapes, locations. It would be easy to use words like stretching; reaching; bound to the ground. It would be simplistic and reductionist to be mighty, or rigid, or firm, or majestic. These are all descriptions. But they are not the tree.

The tree is first and foremost a being. A living thing. It takes in energy and expels waste. It metabolizes. It pushes water up and out. It is active. It flows in the wind; it catches the rain. It trickles the snows down to the ground little-by-little, in chufts and tufts and blemps. It holds back the sky in protection of the slight, vulnerable grasses below it. It is a waystation for weary migrationists. It is a skyscraper for miniature earth-dwellers. It is a source of safety, nourishment, calm, peace to the squirrels and owls and snakes. It is an integral part of the ecosystem and it is an integral part of the forest society. Without the tree all things revert to the tiny mole-like creatures we evolved from. Without the tree standing us an example we have no ambition to develop, to build, to grow higher. We would live in two dimensions, along the surface only, we become content, never knowing what we were missing. Without the tree, too, we would have no rests for birds, and no reason for them to take flight. All of life would be confined to the surface, in direct contradiction to what we have already experienced.

But the tree is also a block. It is a hindrance to some other kind of development of this world which may have occurred, in the absence of trees. What could have been? Everything and almost nothing at all. In the absence of trees, might the snails have taken over? Grown to be ten feet tall and bulletproof? In Without trees, might humanity not have evolved to still be horizontally arm walkers, knuckle-draggers still down like the lowland gorilla, but with a superior intelligence, sense of self, sense of community and society and time? Without trees, where would we have found building materials? What lighter-than-water would we have made our ships from? How could we, even without standing upright, have imagined to float on the surface of the ocean were it not for the example of the logs we saw careening down the swollen river after the torrents came? How could we have developed so differently?

How might we have been the same? The trees are an essential element of our world. Of all our worlds. They do more than simply cleanse the air, cleanse the CO2 out and put the O2 back. They inspire us. They regulate us. They stand us silent witness for the atrocities committed between their trunks, and as silent validation of all the redemptive good done in the same spaces. The trees are our friends. They are our enemies. They are neutral to us, and we treat them with contempt. We ignore their needs in favor of our own, and they take the abuse like any good servant would. They provide more love, more for us than we do for them, and our selfishness is repaid not in justice, for it would be justice if the trees were to revolt, to burn our stone cities to the ground along with the skeletons of their dead relatives, it would be right for them to do so for the ignominity with which we reward their servitude, but they do not do that. They are better than that. They love more than that. We should strive to emulate them, not require the opposite.

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