The Secret Life of Trees

I grew up in the 70s (Explains a lot, some are thinking). They were exciting times; new ideas challenged long-held norms, beliefs and values. For instance, I recall when people started saying that it would help your plants grow if you talked to them. My mom was an immediate convert to this ideology, and it became commonplace around our home to hear my mother having heartfelt conversations with our household foliage. I would like to say that I never jumped on that bandwagon, but in the interests of full disclosure, I may have on more than one occasion bared my soul to our philodendron (philodendrons were big in the 70s)—but only when no one was looking.

Of course, many people were certain that this was all utter nonsense; hippie hooey. Others maintained that there was some scientific basis for the practice. Plants respond to sound waves, some reasoned. No, others claimed, it’s the moisture in our breath. Then of course, there were those who insisted that this was evidence that plants were fully formed sentient beings. As a kid, I didn’t know who to believe.

Well, now I’m a grown man living in the information age, and I feel like it’s time to clear all of this up. Of course plants are intelligent beings with thoughts, feelings and opinions.

Trees in particular.

How do I know this? Hey, when you’re a Robin, you get to know trees.

Let me help you understand how they think. For this purpose, I have included the following sampling of a tree’s inner monologue:

Mmmm…nice day. Sun’s shining. Hardly any clouds—but there are a few. I wonder if it‘ll rain? Or thunderstorm! (shudders) I need to find some cover! Wait, I am cover . . .  I suppose a little rain couldn’t hurt. It’ll perk up the leaves. (looks at his leaves) Yowza, I look good! I wonder if that pretty little birch over there has noticed? Pht! Yeah she has! How could she not? Look at these guns (tree slang for ‘big muscular boughs’)! And my bark? No blemishes. Smooth as a sapling’s trunk! In my case, my bark is better than my bite! (Note: silly thing to say; most trees don’t even have teeth) And is anytree more poplar than I? Clearly, I have the most birds twittering in my branches! (Yes, trees are also obsessed with social media.)

It goes on, but you get the sense of it. Trees can be very self-centered. Their focus tends to be on themselves first of all, and then after that, on their observable surroundings. Things like the weather, the flora, the fauna. Silly trees!

I suppose one shouldn’t blame them. When your head is in the sky it’s difficult to see what is happening at ground level, much less below the surface.

I was in church on Sunday, feeling pretty good about myself, being such a saintly type of person and all. And as I stood there, having some difficulty focusing on whatever it was I was supposed to be there for, distracted by my surroundings, I vaguely noticed some people with their hands raised in worship. They looked like trees.

And it hit me. I’m a tree. A tree planted by a stream who is frequently so absorbed by his life and his surroundings (the visible) that he forgets his roots (invisible). And this is all too often my way when life is good, as it is right now. In times of trouble, I call out to God like a baby wailing in the night. But when things are good, I forget. And it’s dangerous. The sun and the sky and the leaves and the birds are all great, and meant for us to enjoy. But not at the expense of the deeper things—those that go far beneath the surface and are consequently often neglected. No tree will thrive for long once disconnected from its roots.

I was thankful for church that day. It helped me remember one of the main reasons God asks us to come together and worship: it reminds us who we are.



By the way, I was interested to discover that there has been some scientific research on the whole talking to plants thing. There seems to be some evidence that plants respond to sound. But most scientists still don’t believe that they actually listen and think. Silly scientists!