Christmas Trees

Pasadena is known for its trees. Many parts of town are filled with tree-lined streets like the Midwestern town where I was born.  Pasadena’s trees give great shade on warm days. They are like old friends and acquaintances as I walk, and run, around town.

A couple of weeks ago there was a very windy night in the Pasadena area. Winds that gusted well over 100 miles an hour ran through most of the night. In that one night, more than 100 trees came down.

In the morning, there were branches and trees lying everywhere. Power lines were down, and people were without electricity. Streets were blocked, and traffic was impossible. The winds had damaged homes and other buildings. Street signs and traffic lights had been blown around to face in new directions. There were trees that had fallen into houses, and trees that had fallen onto parked cars.

The most dramatic and longest-range challenge was the loss of all those trees, some of which had been standing for a century.

One of the reasons so many trees were uprooted is that there is so little ground water in Southern California. The trees where I grew up tend to be as extensive underground, as they send out roots in search of water, as they are reaching into the sky. Here in Southern California, we water our trees, and that water is closer to the surface. The roots of trees here stay closer to the surface; there is no reason to send roots deep when the water is on the surface. When the wind blows, the roots do not go deep enough to hold the trees into the ground.

Watering the trees on the surface keeps them alive without ground water, but makes them less able to overcome the challenge of wind.

It is easy to see the implications of our actions, now that the winds have come and revealed them. If only we could have foreseen the unintended results of what we have done.

How will what you do today affect you, and the people around you, in the long run? How deep do your roots reach down?

[Image by JulieAndSteve]

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  • Kim

    Very powerful message. So sad to see those old trees come down, I’m sure. We can learn so much from nature, but of course, we are nature too.

    • Thank you, Kim. It is very sad, and fascinating to think of all the experiences we shared with those trees. The oldest were planted by people who knew they would never see the results of their efforts. I hope that we will have the same commitment to those coming next.