The following is not meant as a scientific approach, just random musings on a hot August day.
The drought continues into yet another year. Many of our local trees, unable to sink their tap roots quickly enough to keep up with the ever lowering water table, have perished. From my front porch vantage point, here in this five acre slice of Eden we call Waller County, Texas, I can count a dozen such dead trees, their bare limbs resembling desiccated, arthritic fingers pointing accusingly toward a cloudless sky. “How many dead trees you got?” is a conversation starter in these parts.
After giving the standard answer, an exact approximation of the number, so many times over the past few years I finally stopped to ask myself, “what is a dead tree”?
If we could, with the imagination of a Democritus, look at the atomic structure of the dead tree we would see that atoms, those basic building blocks, are not static. Although having undergone alteration they are every bit as vibrant as those to be found in the leafy green sibling tree standing just a few feet away.
If the so-called dead tree is not dead at its most basic level then what is it? I struggled for a term to fit and the best I could come up with is ‘altruistic’. The neighboring tree that we all agree is alive is, at best, self-serving. It takes in its nutrition from the soil, its sustenance from the sun and hoards them for the purpose of growth, health and procreation. From the time the seed germinates the tree is focused upon fulfilling its own needs.
The dead tree, on the other hand, is engaged in shedding its identity and dispersing its constituent parts into the world to be used by any and all that have need of them. The epitome of unselfishness.
There has to be a metaphor for human existence lurking somewhere in all of this but I will leave that to others more clever to ferret out.