What Kind of Person are You?

posted in: Community, Mindfulness | 2

While guiding a group on a Forest Bathing Experience, someone once asked me, “What kind of person are you?” “Excuse me?” I said. He said he was a wildlife person, and there were others who were water people or bird people, so what kind of person was I? I had really never thought of it, and it didn’t take me long to answer: “I’m a tree person.”

There’s a tree on our property, a majestic oak that has seen the passing of hundreds of seasons and provided shade for all sorts of beings. Its roots are the final resting place of many family pets – mice and goldfish, lizards and rats, and one very well-loved cat. Its limbs are the home to birds and squirrels and bugs and spiders and the remnants of a tree house.

I like to call this tree old man tree, for the many wrinkles in his bark, and i wonder at all his bumps and bruises that show his history. I have known this beauty for 35 years, a mere fraction of its life, and in that time I’ve seen him endure sub-zero temperatures, feet of snow, a freak storm that brought down many trees, hundred mile per hour winds and year upon year of drought. Yet, I accept that he is nearing the end of its life as I know it.

This tree will continue on, even after it falls. He will provide shelter for birds and other critters, along with food for the crawlers and fungi which help the tree return to the forest floor. He will continue to provide nourishment to help feed the trees that grow here including off-spring sprouted from his acorns.

The remnants of all trees, in the soil they create and the oxygen they produce, have been here since the beginning of time. But how much do you really know about trees? For example, did you know that trees use a complex system of underground fungal networks to communicate with each other? Trees are very social beings, sharing food and alerting others to danger. When left to their own devices, they create communities that control the climate and support each other in a show of cooperation.

But wait, the awesomeness of trees doesn’t stop there. Just being in nature is healing to the human body, both emotionally and physically. I don’t know how I would have gotten through the loss of my son without being in nature. Trees produce an oil call phytoncides which protect the trees against germs. When we’re close by, these phytoncides strengthen our immune system, lower blood pressure, reduce stress and help us sleep better, among even more benefits.

Yellowstone River

All this points to the inarguable fact that we must protect our trees. A few hundred years of human influence in the tree ecosystem has brought about devastating results in many areas of the world. It’s never too late, though, to protect our trees and the first step is awareness. You may have heard the story of how removing wolves from Yellowstone changed the flow of rivers and streams there. It seems that with the absence of wolves, elk herds increased and grazed on many of the trees that lined the rivers. Erosion became a problem, the waterways changed course and the entire ecosystem was affected. Once the wolves were reintroduced, the balance of the ecosystem was right again. While wolves were absent from Yellowstone for 70 years, in the 25 years since their return, it is well on its way to a return to normal.

I always marvel at the intelligence of nature. While man’s obsession with controlling the environment is evident, nature continues to adapt to changes as a result of that control. Without awareness and action on our part however, planet Earth will not be able to support our needs and we, mankind, will go the way of the dinosaur. And just like at the time of the dinosaur, Earth will endure and a new species, hopefully smarter than the current one, will emerge. It all comes down to taking care of the environment.

No wonder I’m a tree person, our survival is dependent on them. What kind of person are you?

2 Responses

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *