When my family lived in Asheville, we had a huge oak tree on the master bedroom side of our house. It’s limbs stretched 40 feet in the air, and branched so far that throughout the early fall we would go to sleep to the sound of acorns pounding the roof like hailstones. In a bumper year thousands of acorns bounced to the ground, paving our yard through most of October and November. Any that survived the squirrels, bears and the cold of winter would be waiting as tiny saplings to be pulled in the spring.
If you’ve ever tried to pull a sprouting acorn from the spring earth, you have a deep appreciation for the tree’s knowledge about what it takes to grow 40+ feet. In its infancy, a baby oak tree doesn’t pour its energy into building strong bark. It doesn’t seek a wide, powerful trunk, nor amass a perfusion of branches with a massive canopy of leaves.
Baby oak trees do none of those things. Instead, millions of years of nature’s wisdom have taught the oak tree to plow nearly all of its newborn energy into its roots (see a great photo example below of Quercus robur courtesy of Wikipedia). Reaching down to pull these tiny seedlings requires an impressive amount of force, as the roots beneath the ground stretched many times the size of the tiny nut sitting above it.
In this regard we have much to learn from oak trees. Far too often our lives at work, at home, and online are shaped by the superficial – follower counts and likes, shares and reshares, page counts and press mentions.
All of these things are fine to care about. But caring about them becomes problematic when – without an organic, deep root structure to support their growth – we buckle under the weight of their branches’ boundless appetite for energy.
As we plow through this first month of 2022 , remember that just as we’ve resolved to plant our own, organic roots within our own gardens, so must we be willing to tend those roots with great care. The year will bring fantastic temptations to buff up our trunk and grow new limbs, and in time those things will be important. But for that trunk and those limbs to be healthy, strong, and resilient to whatever 2022 has in store for us, we must first root to rise.