I found myself staring at a tree today. I was sitting in my car pondering a great many things – I had just finished watching the movie ‘Dark City’, something I had been putting off watching it for some time. (the movie was recommended to me amongst a list of others after getting enthralled in the Matrix trilogy as ‘must see’ type movies of a dystopian genre) Such movies pose philosophical questions in the process of twisting their plot lines and thus I often get into a philosophical mindset after viewing them.
I was pondering everything from Maslow’s hierarchical needs, the meaning of life, the expanses of the universe to the intricacies of an atom. And as my mind wandered my visual focus wandered to a tree in the neighbors yard.
It is some sort of fruit tree and for those how have never stared a fruit tree they are identifiable from any other type of tree. It is autumn here and the leaves are starting to fall off the trees and fruit trees tend to be one of the first variety of trees to lose the majority of their leaves and thus expose their bare branches. But this is not the uniqueness of which I speak.
Fruit trees are gnarled messes of interweaving malformed branches, bent this way and that, from their scored up trunks to their outer tips of the highest most branches. A huge spaghetti mass of trunks and branches squirreling out in all directions presumably to seek the sun.
It wasn’t the twisted and bent nature that snapped me out of my deep train of thought however. What caught my attention and suddenly arrested my thinking was a single branch way down in the lower off-branches of the tree.
It was not unique to the tree I later discovered but it did appear to be unique upon my discovery of it’s being there. For here was this one little branch growing in a straight line for a good two to three feet – and going straight up.
Here amongst a ‘normality’ of abnormal, of the seemingly unexpected – of branches who’s purpose is to extend outward toward the sun, on a tree that seems to do so in the most haphazard and random methodology imaginable, was a branch doing it in the way that at least seems to make the most logical sense. The sun is ‘up’ – therefore grow straight up and keep going.
Now, as I mentioned, although this initially appeared unique I soon discovered many similar branches on the same off-shoot as well as upon many of the other lower extensions off the trunk – all these little branches doing their best to shoot straight up amidst a surround mass of mutated brethren.
It then struck me that even though this growth pattern appeared to make sense, that in many ways it was also a futile effort. Although the leaves are gone off the tree now making these efforts of extension quite visible, the branches themselves make this vertical climb right up and through the inner reaches of the tree. Reaches that in the height of summer would be completely surrounded by all of the other disjointed branches that had already found the outer limits of the parent tree’s growth span, and therefore are taking in the vast majority of the nourishing rays of the sun.
Surely they must receive some sun this way or why would there now be so many such branches that I see doing this low down in the tree? But I was left to wonder if it was enough to justify this seemingly noble effort that obviously still fell far short of the full height of the fruit tree as a whole.
Then I went on further to ponder; “why then, if this is the growth that seems to make the most sense, why don’t the branches on top do the same thing? They are all bent over and twisted, curled and crooked, hunched over and spun around like every other portion of the tree!” The answer to this almost seemed too simple. “Well why should they? They have reached the summit and simply need to spread themselves out and take in as much surface as they can!” In a way it almost seemed a lazy existence compared to the unrealized efforts of those lower counterparts.
Where am I going with all this? I don’t really know. I just found it an interesting thought-breaker and have a feeling that both observations – the lazy gnarled branches that had reached and found their goal, and the futile valiance of these attempted sky-shooters lower down but being made in vein – that they were both somehow significant.
I looked briefly for some kind of middle ground, some formation of growth that exhibited some kind of compromise between the two, but it did not seem to exist in that tree. It didn’t seem to exist in any other fruit trees that I could find within line of sight. (although I did see similar ‘straight’ branches low down in all the others as well) All of the branches save for those few dozen or so straight ones on the lower limbs all shared the same characteristic bending to-and-fro. To some extent, even the very trunk of the tree itself writhed on it’s growth in this fashion.
It was an interesting extreme to observe to say the least and I couldn’t help but fathom what a shame it was that the fruit trees could never learn from those lower branches or at least find some peace between these two seemingly competing methodologies…