Hug a Tree

Well kids I’m not quite back in the swing of things, after almost 2 weeks of holiday-ing the regular work routine seems all the more grueling. But I had the chance to get some great reading done, it’s amazing how much reading you can get done when 8 hours of your day aren’t spent at an office. I’ve got a couple reviews in the works: a post on The Man Who Loved China, a biography of Joseph Needem, and The Watchman, just in time for the movie release.

But for now I’m taking in some heavier material: The Tree, by Colin Tudge. The subtitle says it all, “A natural history of what trees are, how they live, and why they matter.” In the first fifty pages I’ve taken in more biology than in the past 4 years of my life. My brain feels like it’s gone into hyper-drive trying to remember my seventh grade biology class. This book has me sniveling like an idiot over the reproductive strategies of cod, the 224 cormosomes needed for some species of trees, and the ever changing taxonomy of botany. Yet, in between all the science I can’t remember, Tudge offers some great little insights that I think are worth sharing.

A note on different “kinds” of trees:

In fact, there are many lineages of trees — quite separate evolutionary lines that have nothing to do with one another except that they are all plants. Many plants, in many of those lineages, have independently essayed the form of the tree. Each achieves treedom in its own way. “Tree” is not a distinct category, like “dog” or horse,” it is just a way of being a plant. The different kinds have much in common, and it is good and necessary to have feel for what is essential, but the essences of nature will not be pinned down easily. In the end, all definitions of nature are simply for convenience, helping us focus on the particular aspect that we happen to be thinking about at the time.

Ah, the limitations of language…reminds me of some of my freshman philosophy classes:

The way we define natural thing influences the way we treat them — whether we speak of wildflowers or of weeds, of Mrs. Tittlemouse or of vermin. But in the end nature is as nature is, and we must just try with different degrees of feebleness, and for our own purposes, to make what sense of it we can.

Life is hard, and no one way of living is perfect. So all y’all can get of my back:

All of life’s requirements — metabolism, reproduction, and the business of getting along with others — are difficult. Each creature must solve life’s problems in its own way. There is no perfect, universal life strategy. Each has its own advantages and drawbacks.

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