Thursday, February 5, 2009

You Can Move a Tree

I was out and about this morning in the neighborhood on the bike, when an enormous yellow construction crane caught my eye. Funny, I thought. I hadn't seen the crane before in this particular spot. Curiosity got the best of me as I turned the bike to investigate.

A very small crowd had gathered to watch the crane lift a huge, old tree (poplar? oak? elm? sorry to arborists everywhere for my lack of city-tree knowledge). It seems as if the school from which the tree was being moved is soon to undergo an expansion and building phase, necessitating the move of the tree from its current location to one 20 meters south. The tree's roots had been carefully trimmed and its root ball dug out--and the tree now hung a meter or so above the ground, awaiting its final (?) resting place. A woman and I estimated its age at no less than 80 years and no more than 160 years.

Impossible, right? You can't move a tree!

Perhaps it's the rain today and accompanying gray skies that turned my thoughts toward the philosophical, but I couldn't help find the metaphor that this grand old tree represents.

As children, we sprout roots, growing from seedlings to young pliable trees. The roots make their inevitable spread, cementing us more firmly in place. We suck nutrients (knowledge, experience, view of our surroundings) only from our immediate surroundings. Our view of the sun doesn't change much--only our perspective differs slightly as the seasons change and we gain height. We never see what's just around the corner. We grow and shed new leaves each year, but the cycle is repeated time and time again. Our bark grows thicker. Storms come and go, and we weather them as best we can, riding out the toughest times and hoping for calmer weather. Sometimes, we lose a limb. People climb on us, carve their initials in our trunk, and try to cut us down.

In this tree's case, man has intervened to (hopefully) give a condenmed plant a new lease on life. It might not be an easy journey--the list of perils are long. It's roots might never take to the new soil. It's structural integrity is suspect, at best, until years have passed and it stands as strongly as it has for a century. The stress of the move might be too great for it to survive.

But consider the optimistic possibilities: What if the tree catches a break, its roots take hold, and it thrives for another 100 years (or more)? A neighbor across the street will have a new view of the magnificient tree. New flowers or other plants might thrive in its shadow in a place that didn't previously enjoy vegetation. Birds, bugs, and small animals may nest and play in a spot more conducive to their health. Children in the adjoining playground will have a close-up encounter with one of Amsterdam's magnificent old inhabitants.

It turns out, that, just maybe, you can move a tree. And just the same, we can make positive changes in our lives. It's not easy, and if your motivation isn't high enough, you probably won't do the things you need to do to change. But if a 100-year-old tree can be moved, why can't we start exercising, cut out unhealthy habits, open our minds to a new idea, make a difference in someone else's life, or simply, remember to really love the ones we love.

To quote a well-worn phrase, old habits die hard. Gettin' a "round tuit" is tough to find. But with the right motivation, and an unending belief in yourself, anything is possible.

Even moving an old tree from one place to another.

(photo shown is NOT the tree from this story and used only for illustrative purposes)

1 comment:

Davie said...

When Pope John Paul ii came to Glasgow, the city council moved a number of mature trees in Bellahouston Park to allow a better view of his holiness. There was a big row over this action but they went ahead and there was no ill effect to the trees.