A very important lesson taught by Mother Nature

Published 10:00 pm Wednesday, February 24, 2016

“Everything that I’ve needed to know about life I’ve learned from a tree.” – Stoney Lamar.

As a consequence of being snowed in for nearly a week, and the ice storm of last week, I’ve had a lot of time to simply look out the window and look at the world outside. This past week, when everything was covered with a thin sheet of ice, just walking to the barn took a while, so I took advantage of the situation and simply sat on the door stoop, looking at the glistening ice reflecting the morning sunlight.

It was absolutely beautiful. Ice was heavier on the south-facing sides of the branches; the storm with its cold rain came from the south, then froze when it hit the cold trees. The new day’s sun with its warm rays was also coming from the same direction, from the southeast. The trees with their cold and heavy branches were grateful.

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The thought that ran through my mind was that both the challenge and the recovery came from the same direction, and the results were beautiful. There’s a lesson there for us. The new weather pattern was coming from the northwest; I sat there watching the clouds float by, heading towards you all in Tryon and Columbus. Did you by any chance see them?

This week Alex Salley and I were looking for property lines on a parcel of land recently donated to Saluda Community Land Trust. Alex is 83, and the terrain was very steep, so progress was slow. While Alex was putting information into his GPS device, I had lots of time to simply look around.

We came upon a beautiful little spring in a deep cove. Most of us have been removed from nature for generations, and we’ve forgotten that a cove like the one we were standing in is exactly the place our forefathers would have chosen to build a cabin. I looked at the healthy trees, many of them poplars. They were straight and tall. That little cove provides protection from severe winds and the spring gives water for growth.

When the trees are young and fragile, the cove hugs them as a mother hugs her small child. As the tree grows older, it becomes strong and tall, with a well- developed root system that enables the tree to sway with the wind.

We walked on to the top of the ridge, with a different picture altogether. That’s where white pines (non-native) had been planted, on the top where they would get maximum sunshine for speedy growth.

It was a picture of disaster: limbs that had been covered with frozen rain of the week before were broken, lying on the ground. It was a mess, and it was a mess caused by men trying to outsmart Mother Nature. And we all know that we can never outsmart Mother Nature!

I like to think of the mature poplar in that cove as a role model. The seedling took its time to grow, time to develop its roots and learn how to sway with the winds that blew down the sides of the mountain. It grew, and it stayed both grounded and flexible enough to reach upward towards the sun.

And it grew enough leaves to take in the sunlight for life, and roots for stability, and it took its time. When the winds blew hard, it swayed and let those winds blow by. The pines at the top got twice as much sunlight and grew much faster, but they are now gone. The poplar in the cove is healthy with many years ahead of it.

There’s a very important lesson there.