Carol A. Hand
I love the fact that I was born on the cusp of two different astrological signs. It gives me two choices every morning. Yes, simple minds are easily entertained. I like today’s options.
Aquarians are given the following message today.
“By accepting the fact that you cannot fix the ails of society at large, you’re free to work on the problems that are nearer to home and closer to your heart. Think globally; act locally.” (Rick Levine, Huffington Post)
I’ve learned that whining won’t change the weather. The ice is here to stay for a while, making outside work risky. There is no question that my expensive winter work boots are a hazard on ice, even if it’s snow-dusted. But my Yak-Traxed tennis shoes do work. My toes don’t freeze as quickly as my nose and fingers when I do venture out in the below zero deep-freeze, so there’s little danger of frostbitten toes.
Although that means there’s not much I can do outside, I can still think, learn, and write. That’s where the message of Pisces comes in handy.
“Rumi wrote, ‘You were born with wings; Learn to use them and fly.'” (Rick Levine, Huffington Post)
Tennis shoes are not wings, but ideas and imagination can be. While working with my friend and colleague on a new social justice class, there’s a chance to try to find our wings using trees as a metaphor for people and communities. It’s already inspired me to learn more and I discovered an incredible resource, The Astonishing Science of What Trees Feel and How They Communicate, by Maria Popova.
Trees are incredible living beings. They live far longer than humans if we let them be, and they do so as supportive communities. Here’s an excerpt from Popova’s fascinating article about Peter Wohlleben’s new book, The hidden life of trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate.
“Wohlleben ponders this astonishing sociality of trees, abounding with wisdom about what makes strong human communities and societies:
“Why are trees such social beings? Why do they share food with their own species and sometimes even go so far as to nourish their competitors? The reasons are the same as for human communities: there are advantages to working together. A tree is not a forest. On its own, a tree cannot establish a consistent local climate. It is at the mercy of wind and weather. But together, many trees create an ecosystem that moderates extremes of heat and cold, stores a great deal of water, and generates a great deal of humidity. And in this protected environment, trees can live to be very old. To get to this point, the community must remain intact no matter what. If every tree were looking out only for itself, then quite a few of them would never reach old age. Regular fatalities would result in many large gaps in the tree canopy, which would make it easier for storms to get inside the forest and uproot more trees. The heat of summer would reach the forest floor and dry it out. Every tree would suffer.
“Every tree, therefore, is valuable to the community and worth keeping around for as long as possible. And that is why even sick individuals are supported and nourished until they recover. Next time, perhaps it will be the other way round, and the supporting tree might be the one in need of assistance.
“A tree can be only as strong as the forest that surrounds it.
“One can’t help but wonder whether trees are so much better equipped at this mutual care than we are because of the different time-scales on which our respective existences play out. Is some of our inability to see this bigger picture of shared sustenance in human communities a function of our biological short-sightedness? Are organisms who live on different time scales better able to act in accordance with this grander scheme of things in a universe that is deeply interconnected?”
My colleague has inspired me to keep learning new things that make me aware of how many things I simply have not noticed. It helps inspire my imagination to take flight. I have always noticed the willow tree that graces my front yard with its imposing presence. I had to have its mate removed my first year here.
Perhaps you can see the decay that had spread through the center of the trunk of the tree on the left in the photo above. It was only a matter of time before it fell. Ever since then, I have had a tree service tend to the remaining tree to keep it healthy. The winds here on the southwestern tip of Lake Superior are often fierce.
I do worry about the lone survivor that must stand against the wind.
The willow did lose a huge branch in a summer storm, but it has survived.
It’s featured in many of my photos because I love it.
Thinking about trees as a metaphor for people and communities awakened my curiosity to know more about willow trees. I wondered if willow trees have “genders” and instinctively found myself wanting to refer to the remaining willow tree as “she.” Willows do indeed have distinct genders. I realize that I have never really looked closely at the flowers, or catkins, that bloom profusely in the spring.
Learning more about trees and willows has only made me realize how much more there is to know about these incredible living beings. Now, I have another reason for eagerly anticipating the spring thaw. I want to pay attention to the catkins when they bloom and learn more about one of the oldest residents in this neighborhood. The willow has witnessed so many changes and I am eager to do my best to make sure it lives through many more.