The trees are stressed. I heard this on NPR. It was a story about how the great sequoia’s in California, the ones that are more than five thousand years old, as old as the dirt they sprouted from or older, are stressed. Anthony Ambrose, the tree biologist interviewed for the segment, said the leaves are browning, falling easily due to exhaustion. “More stressed than we’ve seen in the past,” he said, which made me wonder what these giants have seen and withstood in the span of thousands and thousands of years that it is only now, in this marvelous age of super advanced man that their stress levels are hovering into the stratosphere. I imagine them binging on nutrients going, “I gotta find something to take the edge off, Earl.”
If the trees are freaking out on the cellular level, this can’t possibly bode well for the rest of us who, let’s be honest, are not going to make it to the next five thousand mark to find out how things work out. It’s times like these that I almost miss the rainbow-coded terror alert system that told us how to feel about the prospective dread in the air. It was like licking through one of those awesome, multi-colored popsicles from the ice cream truck: scary red bleeding slowly down to more calming yellow, green, and then soothing blue. Knowing the trees are as maxed out as the rest of us provides some weird comfort, some sense of solidarity that we’re all getting it wrong in devastating increments.
Like everyone else, I’m haunted and saddened and cored out by the recent events in Oregon. I don’t have anywhere to put my disbelief that we’ve become so desensitized to this raw violence that our feet remain stuck in the quicksand. But here we are again. Is it even worth asking how? This would be one more question tossed on a stack rapidly ascending magic beanstalk-style into the clouds. In improv they teach you to avoid asking questions in a scene. It slows down the action, creates vagueness and tedium, and puts the burden on the other player to carry the scene. Aren’t we all just passing the burden of the scene when we ask: “Why can’t congress do anything about this?” “Why don’t we have better resources for people battling mental health issues?” “Why did he feel driven to violence?” While we go on asking, searching, seeking someone is fading into the shadows, feeding despair, making the decision to quit questioning and start acting.
Ambrose says the majestic sequoias are stressed from the drought plaguing California. Hot temperatures and low snow pack are likely to blame. This is another way of saying too much prolonged pressure and not enough relief, not enough reprieve from the sun’s intensity. Just too much. The piece mentions that an average sequoia can take up to 800 gallons of water a day. These gentle beasts spend their days reaching as far and as hard and as deep as they possibly can only to come up lacking every time. Maybe we all know something about that because we’re all a little parched from the same drought that has hijacked common sense and humanity and allowed destruction to have its run of the center ring.
We’ll study the trees and file reports. We’ll propose solutions and implement practical measures to alleviate stress and encourage healthier growth. We’ll be responsible stewards of these marvelous natives while we work our feet out of the quicksand and try to figure out how to be responsible stewards of each other.