Updated: May 6, 2021
It is impossible to show enough love and gratitude for a springtime forest in Oregon. In the valley and near the coast, it is vibrant green and sopping wet, a temperate rainforest humming with life. Every year the plants wriggle up, turn green, and face the beating rain until it abruptly stops. Spring is a time of hope and rebirth that crawls slowly outward from the valley. But sometimes, when I am walking carefully through the full forests, I can’t fight off the thought… by the end of summer, these plants will be starved for water and if we have a year like last, they will be choked by smoke. When the rain does stop, most of these plants run on stored water, which, in our changing climate, is becoming more and more difficult. They will go from being so thoroughly soaked that they barely wave in the breeze to so brittle with thirst that they crunch under foot.
I can’t help but wonder if they know what is in store. In case they do-- in case they know far more than many of us give them credit for-- I thank them for coming back each year despite what they are up against. I take it as a lesson in resilience and a mandate to not become complacent. Each year, the Trillium bloom, the Stinging Nettles grow tall and prickly, the Douglas Firs keep changing carbon dioxide into wood. They do not give up.
I imagine a new, green oak leaf, the last to bloom in spring, bursting into the sunlight and looking around to the new grasses at her feet and the lichen beside her who have been there all year long. Full of springtime hope, she asks them, “have the humans figured it out yet?”
No. They haven’t.
The disheartened oak leaf, like many of our human youngest, shakes off the disappointment and offers all she has. “I will grow big and strong. And I will grow green. And I will be so beautiful that no human will be able to lay eyes on me and not fall in love. They will see me. And they will act.”
That project of doing the very best she can will get the young oak leaf through the whole season, turning sunlight into oxygen and smi
ling her most darling smile for every human who passes by. As fall sweeps in, and many of her friends go back to the earth, the oak leaf will stay late, as is her nature. She will cling to her branch, faith in humans shaken, but not lost, waiting until the season’s final buzzer in hopes that the humans will pull through. Even as she floats toward the ground which is damp again from the first fall rains, she thinks, “by spring they’ll have it,” and settles peacefully on the sleeping grass.
The young of the forests and the oak savanna, human and more-than-human, count on us. To our youth, things are not impossible, they are just yet-to-be-done.
This week, go outside and listen. Listen to the questions of the young, from the ground, from the canopy, and from by your side. When they shout to you, “You can!” find your own inner-child, and believe them. They don’t stop doing their work of sustaining life. Even as it gets harder. Promise them you won’t either.
Once again, send your responses to firstname.lastname@example.org, subject line “Meet Me Where We Are- the hope of the oak leaf” by May 12! I can’t wait to see them.
If you are just joining us, check out the introductory post to get an idea of what a response can be!
Some Gratitude- This week I must acknowledge my best friend and roommate for the past three years. She is the one who told me, during one delicious walk in the woods, that the Oaks are the last trees to bloom in Spring and the last to change in Fall. She teaches me about our plant friends. It helps me see them. And for that I am forever grateful.