The Life of Trees?

Do trees have a “life?”  Well, they certainly live and die but I wonder if we can push that kind of thinking onto trees, bestowing on them some kind of human ideal where we relate human qualities or values to their existence.  We humans like to do that with everything, seeing ourselves in animals, plants, and inanimate objects all the time.  It’s as if we still secretly believe that we are the center of the universe and so we must relate everything to our own experiences, knowledge, and expectations.  How much does this narrow our existence?  How much broader would our thinking be if we could encompass the individuality of each thing, assuming it has it’s own reality.

I’ve been thinking about trees today because I just read Diana Wells book, “Lives of the Trees:  An Uncommon History.”  Really, it isn’t a history of trees but a history of how man has related to trees.  So if you want to know how humans have used, worshiped, or destroyed a particular tree, this is the book for you.  It’s funny how a History of Trees morphed into a History of Human Relations with Trees.  Sometimes book titles are misleading.  Then again, unless a tree writes the book, we’d be hard-pressed to find out what their lives are really like!

I took these photos last week in New Braunfelts, Texas.  This is “Founders Oak” and is easily a couple of hundred years old.  There’s a plaque about the tree, plus it’s fenced so you can’t climb it.  It’s a shame–do you think it’s lonely?  Plus the city has added these bricked supports so that the branches won’t break.  Kind of like life-support.  Although I must say that this tree is looking much better than most humans do in its old-age, with or without life-support.

2 thoughts on “The Life of Trees?

  1. Hmm. Anthropomorphizing, as you indicate – us viewing teh world through our own lenses. But I guess who else’s lens would we use?

    Trees – I am full of the ideas of trees at the moment. Working on my brother’s video, he being a wood sculptor. I had so much fun, and learned so much.

    Waves from a stinking hot Redmond, (onloy 84 at teh moment and it’s 10pm!!)

  2. Like Mariellen, I thought of anthropomorphism. People do seem inclined to personify all sorts of objects and animals. I do it in fiction but in real life I’m more pragmatic. I love trees, however, and what they contribute to the environment. They take a long time to grow so it’s good to preserve them.

    Seeing this one so elegantly propped up reminds me of an acreage I pass on my way into town. There’s an well-kept farm house and two old fruit trees–apples, I think–the majority of whose branches have broken under the weight of many summers of fruit. Only two or three branches remain on each tree but they’ve been carefully propped up with wooden props. Obviously they are still producing their fruit and are important to the homeowner.

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