“Who wants to die? Everything struggles to live. Look at that tree growing up there out of that grating. It gets no sun, and water only when it rains. It’s growing out of sour earth. And it’s strong because its hard struggle to live is making it strong.” ― A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith.
A book that I just finished reading, Unbroken, a current best-seller, describes the struggle for survival by Louis Zamperini, an Olympic runner and U.S. airman during World War II. Louie’s plane crashed in the south Pacific and only by his attitude and determination was he was able to survive forty-seven days floating in a raft and unbelievable inhumane treatment in Japanese prison camps. The author, Laura Hillenbrand, made this astute conclusion of the importance of Louie’s mindset; “Dignity is as essential to human life as water, food, and oxygen.” READ IT!!
Now back to the plant world and fortunately travel to Brooklyn was not needed to observe their fight for survival. In the Parable of the Sower in Luke 8, some seeds fell onto rocky ground and withered because they have no moisture. In the Blue Ridge Mountain version, I couldn’t help but notice the challenge facing a Catawba Rhododendron and Mountain Laurel seedling near Milepost 242 on the Blue Ridge Parkway. They exhibit the beauty and optimism of youth but a long, hot summer lies ahead. Will they survive? I’ll try to remember to look for survivors next spring.
Further south on the Parkway on the rugged cliffs of Mt. Mitchell, an older rhododendron bush is caught between a rock and a hard place. Again, like the seedlings, it’s blooming in exuberance. Is that God’s gift of dignity to them?
The roots of this tree were spotted at Roaring Fork Falls in Yancey County earlier this spring. I’m not a biologist so wouldn’t even venture a guess on the age of this root system. It must have been a thirsty tree with a lot of persistence in its lonely battle for survival.
What’s the punch line for these two trees on the Tanawha Trail near the Linville Cove Viaduct? It’s obvious – they are lovers and partners in persevering the rocky roads of life. Married? Probably not as North Carolina bans same-sex marriage; however it is obvious, they have a rock-steady, enduring relationship.
We usually think of roots as being the underground tree structure. But how about this root maze? To be honest, I’m not sure what it has to do with the “will to live” but it’s a neat photo. Maybe it’s a real multi-generational tree family. Or an entire community of survivors. Any guesses on the location of this root maze?
Life is not always easy and physical and emotional battles oft leave battle scars. More horizontal than vertical, the convoluted structure of this tree still has life but exhibits numerous scars of a tough life. It is located on the Craggy Pinnacle Trail on the Blue Ridge Parkway and like the struggling seedling will get my annual visit to check its condition.
Spring comes to life amidst dying hemlock trees in the Pisgah Forest National Forest of North Carolina. Like the healthiest of humans that become afflicted with microscopic-sized viruses or even cancerous diseases, the strongest of trees oft struggle for survival against an almost invisible foe. In the southern Appalachian Mountains, it has been a futile struggle as a tiny insect, the hemlock wooly adelgid (HWA), has devastated many of the hemlocks.
So what’s the take-aways on the plant world’s will to live? For me, it’s that life is not always easy and despite your circumstances in life, you were put in a place or situation for a reason. Your success in overcoming adversity will be dependent on your determination and your drive to succeed. If God with his evolutionary forces gave this determination to plants, is there any reason that humans with their thinking abilities and dignity would have anything less? Always seek the support of your family and friends, especially when times are tough. Finally, for those that believe in invincibility, it’s humbling to know that the mortality rate on every living object is still 100%.
Live every day in hope and joy and be thankful for life!