|A Mighty Vally Oak at Sunrise, photo by Patricia Damery|
by Jillian Lewis
I have been in the forest my whole life. I grew up in a rural community that was surrounded by uninhabited forest, and I now work at a state park. Throughout the years, the forest (and nature in general) has taught me so many life lessons, but I think the greatest lesson from nature was handed to me by my grandfather.
When I was a child, my grandfather pointed out to me that the big oak tree in his front yard had grown from a tiny acorn. I remember thinking, “He must be pulling my leg.” He smiled and said that he wasn’t kidding; that huge tree grew from one small seed.
Of course, my grandpa didn’t invent this proverb. For years, people have been comparing the mighty oak tree to our own potential in life. It is a perfect illustration, really. We are born so small and helpless but grow into strong, independent adults with unlimited potential.
I believe the official saying is, “mighty oaks from little acorns grow,” and it is supposed to illustrate that great things can come from small beginnings.
This saying is very true, but when you think about it, both the oak tree and the person cannot be guaranteed full growth. There are things that can hinder or stop both the oak tree’s and the person’s growth potential.
For humans, there are several circumstances, choices and events that can literally stop us from living a full life. We may not have the confidence we need or the support we desire. We may become ill or die prematurely. We may be sabotaged by another or abandoned. However, even with all these things that we cannot control, we will always have control over our attitudes and effort, and we also have the ability to fight back. There is always an opportunity for us to regain control in the present.
The story is different, though, for the oak tree. It doesn’t have the ability to fight back from pollution, deforestation and climate change. Although it would like to stop these things, the oak tree is rooted in the ground, immovable.
But there is a silver lining; the oak tree can’t speak or fight back, but it is still standing mighty, still larger than we are. When we look up at it, we are reminded that there is something greater in this world, and we must begin to acquiesce before all growth potential is destroyed.
Jillian Lewis works as an environmental educator and also owns the website www.ForestryDegree.net. She enjoys writing, hiking and mountain climbing.