Lessons From A Redwood Tree
The most majestic, breath-taking nature-scape I’ve visited in my 42 years is the Coast Redwood forest of Northern California. The Redwoods became my mentors in my great time of need.
I recently returned from Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park to “the real world” to find life challenging me in every area of my life: health, career, family, vehicles, and finances. Now, one or two major stressors are no problem for me to handle. I’m a therapist, afterall, so surely I know a thing or two about stress management, right? But when the flood hit me this time, I had to execute Damage Control Lockdown to keep from going bonkers. I actually had thoughts about drinking and that’s how I knew it was serious; I haven’t had a drink in almost 16 years.
Redwoods are known to live 2,000 years or more. In that time they can reach great heights, scraping the sky over 300’ above the soil in which their roots stretch outward over 100’. These living titans have the strength to stand straight despite weighing in at over 1,000,000 pounds.
In a nutshell, what Mr. Redwood told me in response to my despair over the seemingly endless setbacks was, “So what?”
So what if I have a year of loss and halted growth? Redwood doesn’t become a 1,000,000 pound 300’ tall king of a tree by giving up just because of a drought year.
So what if in a period of my life I feel starved and frightened? Looking at the growth rings on a giant Redwood I see that even on a good year, they only grow in diameter by less than a millimeter!
The fact is that Redwood doesn’t give up. In fact, if fungus strikes or a fire erupts around it, it’s thick bark and innate immune system protects it. What would kill most trees before they reach a century of age doesn’t phase Redwood. Again I hear Redwood telling me, “So what?!”
Even if Redwood dies it initiates spontaneous recovery operations. Stored at its base in its “burls” are the tree’s genetic code. The burls contain buds that sprout when the tree dies or is injured, essentially cloning the tree and restoring it back to life and health. In other words, even in the metaphorical death of a person due to massive life transitions, the person can be “reborn” if they dig deep into their soul, their genetic brilliance, and commit to starting over.
I want to be like Redwood. Strong, enduring, patient, beautiful. Redwoods are powerful contributors to Earth as well; they cool the climate by absorbing twice as much CO2 as other forests. Without their adaptability, resilience, and longevity, they would not be able to fulfill their destinies here on Earth.
And so Redwood says to me, “Gary, you can’t give up. Your work here is not finished.”
May you also find the courage and will to fight on.