Life even when all appears dead


 spent most of yesterday de-limbing a number of beech and oak trees that had fallen in the high winds last November. This is in preparation for getting the trunks out of the woodland and sawn into planks. The trunks are straight and long, and so it seems a waste to simply turn them into firewood! The interesting part of all this is that although these trees came down over nine months ago, roots and all, there is still growth on the oak trees. Young, thin limbs protrude out from the trunk, covered with green leaves. Life still exists within them, and they still survive. Modern culture suggests that once something doesn't work, its broken for life - 'It'll cost you more to repair that than to buy a new one!'. Yet nature, and the will to survive, keeps going even when it appears damaged.

I am currently reading a large tome simply titled Woodlands by Oliver Rackham. Within it he looks at various aspects of woodland in the UK, from the history of it over the past several hundred thousand years or so, to the life-cycle of woodlands. At the very beginning he speaks about the UK storms of 1987, which surprised most people as "Most uprooted trees survived...Fallen trees, responding to the change in the direction of gravity, sprouted at least from the base, and sometimes all along the trunk." (p. 10) This mirrored my experience of seeing all those oak trees lying on their sides, and seeing leaves sprouting out from the trunk. The sadness I felt at seeing all these trees lying over, and 'dead', has come to be replaced by my realisation that this is just part of the life-cycle of woodlands, and trees. Life continues.

Rackham goes on, saying that "...storms were an unmitigated benefit for wildlife...They renewed the habitat of ground-nesting birds and...of deer. They call into question the assumption that the 'normal' state of a tree is upright." (p. 10). I had to re-read that final sentence twice as I had thought that that 'assumption' was pretty watertight! So, it appears that the 'destruction' of woodland is actually beneficial for wildlife, and that the trees have actually evolved to deal with being blown over.

I think that modern society believes that nature is a fragile thing, and that we are the masters or custodians of this fragile earth. A very arrogant and human-centric approach, if ever I heard it! Any yet those oak trees have survived, and seem to be thriving, without any input from humans. Every time I look closely at the natural world around me, I learn. Every time. 


Oliver Rackham (2006): Woodlands. Harpercollins