What can a tree tell us about time and how to live?

Tree time! (I found this quote on a box of Celestial Seasoning Tea)

“I planted a tree next to the first house I owned, just a skinny runt of a tree….But when I went back there 40 years later, I couldn’t believe my eyes. The tree was towering over the house, the queen of the neighborhood. In the meantime, I’d become an old man. This was the first time, I ever really believed that the world will go on just fine when I’m gone…Ever since then, I’ve been living in tree time.”

There is no further explanation as to what is meant by “tree time” but the meaning seems pretty clear. The young man had aged and the tree had grown into its maturity. The tree would go on living long after the old man had passed away. The old man realized that life would go on long after he had died. Perhaps to the tree, nothing in the world had really changed very much.

I once remember seeing a Redwood tree that had been sliced open and a series of events had been inscribed on the various rings of the tree. You could look at most of history in the rings of a Redwood tree. Redwood trees can live up to 2000 years. A tree captures in a simple non-technological presentation (as opposed to a PowerPoint presentation) one half of the history of modern humanity on a slice of wood. It is hard to vision a simpler or more powerfully evocative depiction of history. The tree has been there and seen it all. Where human time is frantic, noisy, urgent and chaotic, tree time is solid, steadfast, peaceful and quiet. Tree time simply is without judging or reacting. While we all love flowers and the colors they manifest, can you really think of anything more beautiful or simpler than a tree?

What if we all faced life like a tree? What if we spent our time each day as “tree time?” How would our perspectives on life change if we thought and behaved in tree time rather than in human time? Would we still be as frantic and rushed? Would you still think that what you were doing was so important that nothing else mattered?

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