Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Root systems

When hiking last weekend, we saw a tree just off the trail that must have toppled over the last winter. I was struck by how shallow the root system was on the 35-40 foot tall tree.

Roots on trees have a three-fold purpose. To collect nutrients, to collect water and to support the tree and keep it from falling over. In the mountainous forests of northern New England, the soil is so rich in nutrients and moisture that the root system spreads out rather than down and, with the granite of the mountain just below, the rich soil layer is often so shallow that a tap root has nowhere to go to provide stability.

So, thinking about the root system kind of made me wonder how much people are like trees. Maybe, it's through struggle for our physical and emotional needs that we gain depth and stability.

If our roots have to work hard enough to give us what we need then when we get buffeted by winds of adversity or burdened by loads of ice, snow or heartache--we can hang in there--maybe we would bear some scars but we wouldn't be bottom-side up beside the trail.


beckie said...

Beth, a very provocative post. But I think a very insightful one. There are times when I wish I didn't have to work so hard at putting down roots-other times when as you say we are buffeted by high winds, I am glad they are there. I know you are the type to have a deep tap root to keep you straight and tall.



I work with kids, and often see parents who never want their children to be disciplined, to experience disappointment or tests of patience, to never have a request or wish denied; in other words, to never experience the very things that will make them grow into responsible, strong, generous, mature adults.

In my opinion, such cases are not really about the children so much as they are about the parents. Parents claim they love their children, and THAT'S why they spoil them. Not so.

The parents don't want to do the hard work, set boundaries and stand firm, and experience the hurt of being told "I hate you" or "You're not fair" and all the other spiteful, thoughtless things children can say.

Sorry. Got on a soapbox there.

I just wish more people/parents realized what gifts adversity, patience, and hard work can be.

Beth said...

Beckie, it's hard to remember that we're putting down that tap root when we stand firm. You must have a strong one and those seven granddaughters all know it.

Keanan, thanks--yes I agree that the "helicopter" generation of parents may have made sure their kids had lots of opportunities but maybe not some of the character building opportunities that come from disappointment.

Jayne said...

A wonderful analogy Beth, and so true.

Ruth said...

Thoughtful post. When I see a big tree down on a trail, I am glad I was not there when it fell.

Rondi said...

Nice thoughts. Very true...

The Texican said...

Great post cuz. I read it on my reader yesterday, but never got by to leave a comment.

TheElementary said...

I think you're right, struggle makes not only stronger people but we learn to appreciate what we have. Perhaps fighting for anything makes it more valuable to us. I love the connection you made.

Kathiesbirds said...

Beth, I've seen that same scene so many times in the New England woods. Nice analogy. One of my favorite children's books is called "Whisper From the Woods" by Victoria Wirth and the artist (A. Scott Banfill) portrays the tree roots as hands holding onto one another beneath the ground. You would probably love it!

KGMom said...

True words. Wonderful analogy.
Can I use it when I teach--I am always looking for good analogies.

Anonymous said...

We have a lot trees down around in the storms and I've thought the same thing, their roots did not go very deep. Excellent analogy.

Beth said...

Jayne, thank :)

Ruth, you are right about it falling--Charlie asked if it had made any noise.

Rondi, thanks congratulations on another successful school year.

Texican, I'm glad you enjoyed it. Then you wrote about log barns--we can't get away from trees, I guess.

The Elementary, I guess knowing we'll come out stronger is the only thing to look forward to in the middle of a struggle--I try to remember that as I wrestle, cry and pray for my teenager.

Kathie, I love the sound of that book--trees holding hands, how beautiful. I'll definitely look for it.

KGMom, thanks, of course, you can use anything I ever say if it's--no proprietorial material here.

Bookbabie--it's kind of sad when you think about it, isn't it?