By Jim Poling Sr.
From Shaman’s Rock
The first sounds of winter’s retreat come from snow melting off the metal sheets covering my woodpile.
Plink . . . plink . . . plink.
Slow, almost imperceptible.
Then faster and louder as the morning sun grows more ravenous. Individual drips joining others in a widening pool at the woodpile’s base.
My woodpile looks sadly diminished today, its early autumn bulk considerably reduced. It’s like looking at a good friend wasting away.
Wasting is a wrong word. My woodpile’s bulk has been reduced as it gave up a large part of itself to keep me warm this winter. Given, not wasted.
My woodpile is a good friend who gives me much. It was once a living tree offering beauty, shade and oxygen while providing protection for small animals, insects and birds. When it died, as all living things must, it fell to the forest floor for me to find.
My woodpile brings me more than winter heat. It gives me the joy of being in the woods, and the physical exercise of cutting, splitting and stacking it.
It also gives me mental workouts. I come here occasionally to lean against it and think about life and how complicated it can be.
In the woodpile I see a different world. A world of trees. Also a complicated place, but a place managed far more successfully than ours.
Some Indigenous people believe that trees and other plants are living beings somewhat similar to human beings. Scientific studies have been supporting this, finding that trees, through their roots and leaves, sense and comprehend their environment and communicate information with fellow trees and other plants.
Trees avoid many of the problems that complicate our human world. One reason they do is that trees are patient beings, never rushing to make change.
Trees don’t get angry or yell at each other. They don’t waste time and energy whining about their situations or controls on their lives. They work together to help each other.
Most importantly, they respect and appreciate diversity.
Their skins are different colours, different textures. Their leaves are different shapes and different sizes. But they live side by side, not discriminating. There is no racism nor social inequality in the world of trees.
The mightiest oak is no more important than the weakest willow.
Unlike us, they live sustainable lives. They take and use only what is needed, understanding that conserving energy and resources makes life better for all.
We humans are beginning to understand that we are living an unsustainable way of life. Some research indicates that 87 per cent of all our economic activity is unsustainable – in other words not supported by renewable resources.
Understanding that problem is one thing. Solving it is another.
We deal with the symptoms of our unsustainable way of life – plastics congesting the oceans, carbon emissions changing climate, landfills choking with waste. We haven’t yet seriously addressed the root cause of the symptoms, which is consuming much more than we really need.
Nature has dealt with the root cause of unsustainability since the beginning of time. If it hadn’t, we wouldn’t be here. It understands the difference between simply wanting and truly needing.
We humans see Nature as something nice, but separate from ourselves. We don’t see ourselves as part of it and certainly don’t see that there is much that it can teach us.
When I lean against my woodpile contemplating the world, I often wonder whether the answers to our problems are right here in Nature. Can Nature show us how to live without the anger, hatred and wars we experience now? How to live without discrimination and social inequality? How to fight the diseases that continue to infect us?
It will take people a lot smarter than me to find the answers to those questions.
The positive news is that those people – members of the scientific community – are out there working steadily to unlock the secrets of Nature. As they share what they learn from Nature, it is possible that we all will become as smart as the trees that surround us and the world will be a better place.