I have always loved the outdoors. I grew up with a lot of freedom and by age eight I was allowed to roam our neighborhood, which included a grove of very old, very tall eucalyptus trees. I remember climbing up these trees and taking in the view of the world below. Recently I read the book “The Hidden Life of Trees” and was inspired to notice more about trees. This year also brought the end to many of our two hundred-plus-year-old black oaks. The neighborhood has been filled with the popping and cracking of these old trees giving up a limb, a fork, or falling over entirely. Inspection of the root balls reveals that the roots have rotted away. A conversation with an arborist brought to light that this particular species, for some odd reason, lives much longer in our town. Something about the combination of soil, light and water has lead to trees that generally live one hundred years, making it up to two hundred or more. So when we asked which of our trees were in danger of falling, the arborist could only reply “All of them, they are way past their normal life cycle.”
But it wasn’t until yesterday, when I was starting my spring clean up of our planter boxes and front yard that I noticed something curious. For the last three years (drought years in California) there have been HUNDREDS of sprouting acorns. These puppies are hard to pull up, with a tap root that makes it’s way deep into the earth. But last August, at the time when the acorns are usually falling, I noticed we didn’t have many. And this year, as I clean up, I haven’t found a SINGLE new baby oak. In the unimproved parts of the yard, the babies from the last three years are thriving. They have a ton of sunshine and water created by the fact that four large trees that used to shade them are gone.
I can’t help but think that the trees knew what the weather patterns were going to be. They knew that they had reached a critical time in life, (near death!) and sent out the offspring. And this year? With no new offspring, perhaps they are giving those three year olds a better chance at survival.
Of course, my mind then goes to the state of our entire earth, our humanity and more and I suddenly feel that the trees are much wiser than we are.