If Trees Could Talk

I’m pretty sure if trees could talk, most of them wouldn’t be saying much at present. They are basically dormant, after all, trying to survive the brutalities of winter with all the other living things. Trees sleep during the frigid months, like the bears here in Minnesota. It seems to me, however, some of them talk in their sleep.

Recently, I was out and about, snowshoeing, and I noticed some oaks chattering. They were creating a rattling sound. Of course, it was coming from the dead leaves that were clinging to twigs. I wondered how those leaves managed to hang on all winter.

Anyway, the oaks were talking. I listened closely but could not make anything of it. Does anyone around here speak tree? I know I don’t.

Since I couldn’t translate, I decided to find out why some of the oaks still had dead leaves on them. I did some reading and found out the condition is called marcescence. It is a condition mainly practiced by sexually immature trees. The leaves die. Some of the dead leaves remain. Hangin’ in there. It seems a sort of juxtaposition of seasons. Remnants of autumn in the dead of winter.

Interestingly, there are a few theories out there about marcescence. One thing I read was the trees are stuck in a mid-evolutionary state and have not quite evolved to the level of full conifer (a tree that sheds its leaves seasonally). Hmm… 

Another thing I read was some trees maintain dead leaves to protect young buds. Since deer and other critters feast on undeveloped buds during winter, the dead leaves act as a barrier or deterrent. Interesting.

Finally, I read my favorite theory: They hold on in defiance of winter. That made me laugh. Perhaps, like people, some trees aren’t fond of the colder months. In an act of denial, they avoid the autumn ritual of leaf-shedding. Has protesting a season ever prevented its coming?

In the meanwhile, I intend to enjoy the remainder of winter and all it has to offer. I’m going to go out in the snow, get in some more snowshoeing and listen closely to the trees. They will be waking up in a couple months. 

If I’m being honest, I must admit I’m not so different from the oaks that won’t shed their leaves in season. I have had my share of holding on and refusing to let go of last year’s issues. Am I stuck? Trying to protect myself? Or am I in denial, unwilling to accept reality? Maybe all the above.

At any rate, I’m grateful for what the trees have to say and what they have taught me. Even if I don’t speak tree, I understand the message.