In our search for a long, healthy and harmonious life, the redwood provides a nearly perfect example..
The Redwood tree has been around longer than any other tree on the planet. They existed as long as 160 million years ago, during the Jurassic period. These trees, while growing to a diameter of 22' grow to as much as 367' tall, with a life span between 600 and 2000 years!
The redwood is the only known species in which some of them have exactly the same DNA today as redwoods that existed 150 million
years ago! Every other species has changes in its DNA from generation to generation. Perhaps the redwood reached a near perfect way of existing in harmony, needing little more evolution.
Health, Stability, and Community
The root system, although descending only 8'-13', travels
laterally as much as 150'. It combines with the surrounding redwood root systems to
create a kind of mesh network. This network is a remarkable system that
creates a strong foundation for the trees. They literally support each other. The nutrients sucked up
by the roots of one redwood are shared with all the trees throughout the network. No tree is without food.
When a redwood dies, the roots from the dead tree continue to provide nutrition and foundational support for the community. Usefulness beyond death. Because of the tannins in their bark, disease and insect damage are virtually unknown to redwoods and only the hottest of fires can damage them.
Redwoods have a remarkable ability to regenerate and multiply. While
most species regenerate through sexual reproduction, the redwood
also reproduces from stumps, downed root systems, and redwood burls.
Traveling up these giants, you find that the redwood sustains many micro-climates, or
communities of animals and birds. Since many of these species never leave their chosen elevation, we are often unaware of their existence..
Just being in the presence of these giants inspires awe. The knowledge of how incredibly efficient they are while living so harmoniously, inspires me to reflect on our human existence and how we can learn from their example. I find it ironic that while redwoods go nowhere and seem to do nothing at all, they accomplish so much. We on the other hand, are busy all the time. Busy with what? I believe that we all want to feel a sense of belonging; of "family" or "tribe". We spend our lives in search of our place in this world. A place where we can contribute in a creative and deeply satisfying way, while feeling loved and appreciated.
Yet, we live very isolated lives. We sleep apart, we live apart, we travel apart. Although we have neighbors, we may not know them and for the most part, we don't share our lives with them. Although we travel in huge groups, we're all in our own metal boxes, in our own little world.
Living in Harmony
In the late 70's I lived in an ashram. I had discovered an idyllic community. We didn't need large homes with lots of stuff, because we shared everything ( a huge divergence from a culture where "possession is 9/10's of the law"). We shared meals. This made the shopping, the preparation, and the clean up quite easy. Our meals, although fresh and organic, came to about .80 per meal! It was an environment where for little buck, we got a huge bang. There was a free box, where items were left when no longer needed for the next person. A stellar example of environmental stewardship, this life style left a very small environmental footprint, while making a very positive impact on it's community.
I lived quite happily. I got three squares a day. I lived with my friends. The activities that I enjoyed were right there and always free. I had nothing in my way to clutter what was really important for me. I lived on a stipend of $100/ month and was able to save money! I lived a slower, deeply fulfilling life.
An idyllic life. Although, one that not many Americans might embrace today. So, how can we translate this to our present day lifestyle?
Some years ago, I created a support network in my neighborhood for fruit sharing. I documented all the fruit trees and when the fruit ripened, I contacted my neighbors to arrange a day and time when they could pick the fruit. I discovered a huge bounty. From this experience, I believe that within any given neighborhood, there may well be enough fruit trees to supply most of the communities fruit needs. Added benefits being that we get to know our neighbors, utilize the local bounty (rather than having it go to waste), along with providing a very sustainable service for our planet.
A few years back I
organized a few "Map Your Neighborhood" evenings. This is a very
effective disaster preparedness program that is free to communities
across America. The fire department gave me flyers to give to my neighbors, with a date and time. I supplied the place and popped in a DVD. People arrived with the intention of collaborating
around disaster preparedness. Yet while discussing the material, a beautiful thing happened. We got to know each
other and actually enjoyed each others company.
contact info, and agreed on locations where people would go in case of a
We made a list of those folks who
have skills to assist in a disaster. We listed all the tools and equipment that might be necessary along with it's location. We coalesced into a team. Now I know these folks and feel so
much safer and grateful for them. Many of them are now my friends. Through these experiences, my sense of belonging, and my satisfaction as a contributing member of our community deepened.
( If you want further information on this program just contact your local fire department.)
Sharing the "stuff of life"
Imagine, nearly every house
has a book and video library. On any given block, there's probably enough to last one heck of a long time! The same goes for tools. In any given neighborhood, there are enough tools to fill a
I recognize that all neighborhoods may have many of the services and goods that we often drive elsewhere to get. The benefits of this "localizing" is that we can spend less money, reuse products rather than purchase new ones, utilize local services, thereby supporting our very local economy, and give ourselves more leisure time as we have goods and services available within walking distance. Localizing in this way can further deepen our feelings of belonging and safety. Once established, we would be surrounded with people we know, associate with, and possibly have friendships with.
Through all these means we have the potential to slow our lives way down and deepen our "roots", while making a huge impact on our planets well being.