Last week while visiting a friend one of these strange thoughts popped into my head like a flea hitching a ride on a passing dog.
It moved in and multiplied.
My friend and I were sitting under a covered porch in red Adirondacks chairs enjoying a beautiful day in the country, as we stared out and talked about how pretty the mountains that where peeking out though the pine trees that looked like a misty a watercolors painting.
My mind drifted to the joy I would soon have by planting flowers; and my eyes drifted from the mountains to the 40-year-old pine tree that sat a few feet away. The tree pulled me in with its wide sculptural trunk, split in two thick pieces. They wrapped around each other like a bark rope, rich in texture and form.
I was admiring it when it happened.
It was the part of the trunk that bulged out and looked like a pizza, beer belly.
My unfiltered brain brought up the question that fell from my lips before I could catch them.
“Do trees get fat?’ I blurted out.
Luckily I was with an old friend who I knew long enough who was accustomed to my strange outbursts of unrelated odd questions.
Otherwise I would have had to explain this odd curiosity with seemly useless information.
I went home that night thinking and wondering if there are over weight trees and if so do they worry about it?
Do they ask the tree next to them “Does my trunk look fat with this bark?”
Or, “Do you think my leaves are too filled out. I am kinda feeling a little weighed down. What If I lose a branch?”
The question of over weight trees haunted me for the rest of the night and when I couldn’t sleep, I googled it.
As I tapped the key board for answers, my drowse imagination was unchained.
In my waking dream I saw a white coat and a tree with a stethoscope pressed up against it. The Doctor shook his head as he asked the tree what its diet was like.
The tree feeling ashamed, thinking about the last night sugar rush while binge watching Netflix through an open window. It was a series about deforestation.
“I can’t move,” cried the tree to the doctor in its defense of the judgment seen in the doctors frown. “There is no place to go. I can’t just pick up and leave,” it said. “Plus my neighbor keeps dropping branches next to my trunk. It’s all stressing me out!”
A fat tree?
This was a strange idea that needed a little Google investigation.
I found this:
"Plants make their own food," said John Shanklin, the Brookhaven Lab biochemist who led the research. "They convert sunlight, water, and carbon dioxide into sugars through photosynthesis, and those sugars are usually transported out of leaves to other parts of the plant, and converted to other compounds plants need for growth and development. Oils tend not to accumulate to high levels, except in some seeds.”
"In several cases, combinations of these mutations helped tip plant metabolism to produce and store more oil than expected in leaves," Shanklin said.
Extra fat accumulation?
Seemed like trees liked sugar and fatty foods too.
I wondered, did it hold on to the extra poundage after it had made its seeds babies?
And if it binges on fats or is it a sugar fiend- at night after a stressful day of listening as the sound of chainsaws in the distance grows closer.
I can relate to stress.
I had, in high school been so skinny that my elders nick named me Twiggy after a very thin famous model from the 60’s. So I tried to gain weight and get a new nick name and I did very successfully after my first and second child. Then it was too much and I tried to send it back.
So we began the roller-coaster ride me and my weigh, and extra stress.
Up down and like Goldilocks I was looking for the elusive just right.
How annoying it was and what a distraction for my mind that was stressing over it.
I needed to make room for more important things than how I looked in that new dress. But what to do about it?
I turned to nature for answers.
As a wildlife rehabber and naturalist I’d never really seen wildlife in the wild that look over weight.
What was their secret?
Hard work; because they are looking for food all day?
They got plenty of exercise, I imagine.
I worked hard.
I would exercise like a nut to no avail or weight loss.
I also had a refrigerator with food any time I want it.
But what about the trees? Although I knew they had them I never spent too much time thinking about the trees, plants and their feelings or what I might have in common with them.
I talk to them and even named my bird of paradise Mabel after the HBO series because she was funny and I liked the name and so did my bird of paradise.
I knew because It grew a bunch of new leaves that feathered out like a birds wing after I named her.
Coincidence? I think not.
In the book The Secret Life of Trees, Peter Wohlleben chronicles what his own experience of managing a forest in the Eifel mountains in Germany has taught him about the astonishing language of trees and how trailblazing arboreal research from scientists around the world reveals “the role forests play in making our world the kind of place where we want to live.”
He discovered that trees are social beings and share food with their own species and sometimes even go so far as to nourish their competitors.
The reasons he says, are the same as for human communities: there are advantages to working together. A tree is not a forest. On its own, a tree cannot establish a consistent local climate. It is at the mercy of wind and weather.
Peter Wohlleben said:
“Every tree, therefore, is valuable to the community and worth keeping around for as long as possible. And that is why even sick individuals are supported and nourished until they recover. Next time, perhaps it will be the other way round, and the supporting tree might be the one in need of assistance.
A tree can be only as strong as the forest that surrounds it.”
So there you go; fat trees, social trees and what artist think about at 3am.
We could all find something we had in common, even with the trees.