The large old oak stands back, hidden from those who rush by. But step towards her and you can feel her presence. You can sense her wisdom. Get closer, touch her rough bark and you can feel her love. The pain of life falls away – if only for a short time. This is why I tend the park.
An oak dies
Further in the park, a medium-sized oak – middle-aged, maybe? – shaded the ground and all who set foot beneath her. She was a split oak – two large trunks emerging together yet separate from the ground. The oak, though not very old, looked tired. Each year she produced fewer and fewer leaves, many of which turned brown but stubbornly held on to their branches. Finally on a hot day in early summer, the oak could no longer hold herself together. In a swift and definitive act, the twin trunks split apart.
Death is always around us. We grow up and grow old, our children continue the journey. I remember what it was like to be a child and then a parent. Although I was present when my own grandparents and parents aged and died, growing old is new to me. While death is everywhere, it, nevertheless, comes as a surprise, one that is appalling in its finality.
Life goes on
Though the loss of the oak was palpable, the next generation was ready to fill in. Young saplings grew in the shade of the split oak, but following her fall, they were bathed in bright sunlight. Mushrooms, insects, microorganisms and more went to work converting the remains of the fallen tree into nutrients for the young ones, ready to pick up where the mother tree left off.
Choosing who lives
The park is filled with life. There are trees and shrubs that have been here for decades, and other plants that emerge with the winter rains each year. Many of the recent arrivals come from faraway places and they don’t play well with those who have been here for eons. They don’t seem to want to join the community. Maybe with time they will learn to speak the language of the old timers, or maybe in their haste they will push them out.
We humans enter the fray. In an effort to subdue the aggressive newcomers and to help the old timers reestablish their venerable living communities, we choose those we wish to keep and remove others. Maybe this is wrong, but humans have always made these kinds of decisions.
For the past sixteen years I have gone to the nature park to visit with lizards, hawks and crows, oaks, walnuts, people, dogs, horses, wildflowers, and yes, even weeds. I have met many new beings, and seen the loss of some. Mostly, I enjoy watching the slow, steady growth that occurs in a community over time.
Join us for monthly volunteer days, or just stop by for a pleasant walk.
4 thoughts on “Life and Death in a Nature Park”
Thank you so much for your amazing work.
Thanks, Portia. Are you having a plant sale this weekend? I thought I saw that on IG.
Beautiful commentary. Always hate to see our beautiful California heritage oaks go down. They are irreplaceable.
I enjoyed this philosophical post.
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