Walt Whitman was an American poet and journalist who wrote the controversial literary piece “Leaves of Grass” that touched on spirituality, philosophy, religion, and sexuality. He was named the Father of the Free Verse for his style of writing. He also wrote some insightful poetry about trees.
At 54, Whitman suffered a stroke that left him paralyzed but he became in tune with the natural world as part of his recovery. Whitman frequented open areas surrounded by nature to get fresh air and this inspired him to write a series of prose that was later published as a collection in the book “Specimen Days.”
This book included anecdotes about his life as a former nurse in the Civil War. But Whitman largely wrote about the things he learned about living from observing trees. Here are some things that trees can teach us about life, according to this esteemed author.
Here Are 11 Things Trees Teach Us About Life
1. Trees teach us authenticity.
According to Whitman, the quiet but imposing presence of a tree is a powerful display of authenticity. He described trees as “so innocent and harmless, yet so savage,” because they appear for what they are, with no embellishments.
- Trees teach us to embrace our inherent being without worry for people’s criticisms or what society may dictate.
- From these natural creations, we learn that we have to remain true to who we are no matter what circumstances we face.
- Whitman said authenticity is the noblest human character and trees reflect this with their inspiring and incredible presence.
- Trees remain standing tall on the ground, while exuding beauty and life, regardless of the situation around them.
2. A tree teaches us to be aware of our surroundings.
Trees pay very close attention to their surroundings. These natural wonders can accurately sense the changes in the weather and the wind, the temperature, and the light or shade. By paying close attention to the other cues from their environment, trees shed their leaves just in time for autumn.
If a tree held on to its leaves longer than it should, then its branches would crack when the strong winds blow or when freezing weather and ice condenses things. These natural wonders adapt when they pay close attention to the shifts around them. Trees don’t resist these shifts. Instead, they take control of the one thing they can – their own behavior.
From this behavior, trees teach us to also pay attention to what’s around us so that we can adjust our reactions and control our behavior. By understanding what is going on and why things happen to us, we can decisively come up with the right response to the predicaments we face.
3. Trees teach us to sow patience and pace ourselves as we’ll get our due in the right time.
Whitman also noticed that trees imbibe a universal flow even if their sizes, height, and builds are different. Trees have to pace their growth or risk harming themselves. They need to build up their core first and ensure that their trunk is firm, solid, and thick because it matters to their stability.
But some trees do grow too many branches and leaves to soak more sunlight in. There are others that grow too wide or too tall before their trunks are ready and mature. These trees usually develop injuries and diseases to their trunks and branches, or worse, die before they have the chance to fully develop.
- Trees, therefore, teach us the value of taking time.
- They show us how it is very important to pace ourselves while learning to grasp our capabilities because if we reach our capacity too soon, then we might not be able to handle things. Instead, we might break and suffer.
- A tree teaches us that, for everything, there is a season and a reason why things come to be.
- They tell us that we will all eventually receive what’s due us but it will happen at the right timing.
- We just need to muster patience, to remain steadfast and positive because rushing things won’t give us long-lasting results.
4. A tree teaches us the importance of belonging to a community.
Many species of trees thrive among family. A tree that stands alone won’t usually last long because it won’t be able to deal with the changes in the weather. But a tree that grows among a community can count on other trees because they look out for each other, especially in times of extreme weather.
Trees deal with the heat, cold, and drought together by building an ecosystem to support each other. Experts have proven that trees in this type of environment live to be quite healthy and really old.
Just like our leafy neighbors, we need other people in order to survive in this world. We become resilient to the trials and challenges of life because we can turn to friends and family for help and support.
Philosopher Mark Nepo also said that human existence is similar to that of trees. Even if we stand as individuals with different backgrounds and perspectives, we have a root system that binds us to one another. What may happen to one person can impact a community. Our human instincts enable us to rely on each other, especially in times when we don’t understand what is going on around us.
5. Trees also teach us to flourish, even if we’re alone.
However, there are also some trees that live in solitary or away from the community, especially in the most deserted parts of the world. And like these wonders of nature, we also find ourselves alone at times. We experience people turning their backs or leaving us during the most challenging times of our life.
It’s in these times that we can also draw some inspiration from the tree. They teach us that we need to have faith and trust in ourselves and our capabilities.
- They show us that we must keep pressing on even if we don’t have the support of other people or we have limited resources.
- Trees demonstrate that no struggle can bring us down and no challenge can defeat us if we muster self-courage.
- No matter how intense and difficult the situation is, it’s still a learning experience from which we can mature and evolve with a positive zest for life, much like the tree in solitude that continues to grow taller, spread its branches and thicken its leaves.
6. A tree teaches us modesty.
Despite how grand or tall they stand, trees can remain inconspicuous. Sometimes, it’s easy for us to forget and disregard the existence of these lofty beings because they are just always there.
Trees originate as little nuts that barely fit the palm of our hands. From this, we can learn that each of us starts off small as well. We need to keep reminding ourselves that, just like the trees, we all come from humble beginnings no matter how big and successful we eventually become. This thought will help keep us grounded so that we don’t lose our empathy for other people.
7. Trees teach us to stand tall even in adversity.
Trees are always at risk for external dangers in their lifetime. But even when pushed to death by the dangers around them, they remain standing at peace.
- Trees teach us to be tougher and stronger when faced with the worst challenges.
- They show us that the problems we face and the problematic people we encounter can still bring value to our life.
- Our experiences with these struggles will help us learn the skills to win and rise above difficulties.
8. A tree teaches us to find the silver lining.
Despite their stillness and inability to move from one place to another, trees can sway with the wind, bask in the sunshine, and open their branches wider in the glory of spring. They show us that it’s nice to be always happy and positive because life can be enjoyed better if you find the silver lining amid the difficulties.
Problems and trials are an inescapable part of life but this shouldn’t stop us from enjoying happy moments with the people that matter to us. The only time problems rob us of the happiness we deserve is if we allow them to overtake us.