Generally, people do their best to avoid the rain. Especially on a college campus, the rain is oftentimes seen as dreary and inconvenient; something that only serves to soak through backpacks and jackets and shoes as students run between classes as quickly as possible. The rain, paired with cold weather, is a college student’s worst enemy. But what does it mean for the trees?
This past weekend, Carlisle was supposed to be hit by a hurricane. While hurricane Joaquin doubled back on itself and ended up avoiding the continental United States all together, Carlisle has still been experiencing many days of suddenly cold and rainy weather in a row. This kind of weather, which makes sitting inside and wrapping oneself up in a blanket with a cup of tea extremely tempting, got me thinking. Humans do their best to avoid being caught in this kind of weather, but how do trees respond? For trees, there is no respite, no running away from the cold. How does the rain make them feel?
These musings are the reason I spent a chunk of my Friday evening sitting outside with my tree.
At first, I was stuck inside my own head. I was fixated on the fact that it was cold, growing darker, and raining just enough to be a nuisance but not hard enough to warrant an umbrella. Why was I out here again? It was quiet, and everything seemed still. I doubted that anything interesting would happen. I decided to stick it out anyway.
And I’m glad that I did. I reminded myself that I was here to observe, to learn from the tree. Within a few minutes, I was beginning to see things differently.
The wind blew, and the leaves shifted and danced in response. Similarly, my raincoat shifted, which let the cold air closer to my core. I thought about the fact that the sugar maple’s thick bark protects the tree’s more sensitive core from the biting winds. As I watched, rain drops pooled on the sleeve of my coat and then dribbled off once their combined weight allowed gravity to pull them toward the earth’s surface. I thought about how the trees leaves also acted as a waterproof barrier upon which raindrops collected and eventually ran off of.
I quickly realized that, despite my initial thoughts, the lack of human-noise did not mean that it was quiet that night. I found that I was simply dismissing some sounds as background noises, and I made a conscious effort to register everything I heard. The sounds of the wind blowing through the leaves and the countless, misty raindrops beating against the tree, myself, or the pavement became soothing. The darker the night grew, the more I relied on my other senses to tell me what was happening around me. Perhaps trees do the same.
The Weather Channel 2015. “Hurricane Central.” Retrieved October 4, 2015 (http://www.weather.com/storms/hurricane-central/joaquin-2015/AL112015).