This photo originally shared on Instagram
What would it look like? How would it evolve?
I think I may now have an answer. Only it’s probably not a complete one, though.
Behold this cross-section of a once-vibrant tree, now doing duty as a fencepost beside a busy road in east London. I was able to count out about 20 rings. 20 years of growth. 20 years of cleaning the air around us before someone decided this dusty stretch of road needed an ugly stretch of fencing.
If humans wear their years in wrinkles and smile lines, I’m going to guess that trees do the same with their rings. Each one tells a story, but just like a grandmother’s face, the specific details of a tree’s life aren’t so easy to tease out at first glance, if at all.
Which is as it should be, because nature loves a good mystery. And as I stand stand beside the thrum of traffic and think about what that mystery would look like if I could divine it from the rings below me, I imagine the kind of things this tree would have encountered, the people who would have sat under its shade, the lives that would have played out around it.
Soon enough I continue my journey. I’ve got errands to run, a life to return to. And all around me, countless other trees stand silent, imperceptibly adding rings of their own, ever so slowly changing the landscape while the rest of us rush past in ignorance.
Perhaps we’d have a better appreciation of the preciousness of time if we took notice of the signs all around us of its inevitable passage.
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