Last month I was lucky to visit the Sequoia, Kings Canyon, and Yosemite National Parks for the first time. It was relaxing, educational, and fun. And I learned a thing or two from the trees.
1. Certain things have been here way longer than modern man and have survived through thick and thin; this should give our lives perspective. The giant sequoia trees I saw were literally thousands of years old. The General Sherman Tree, the largest known tree on Earth, is 2,500 years old. These trees have lived through all the major wars of history, enormous natural disasters, and huge changes in climate and civilization around them. Compared to that, what is our relative importance? What can we learn from their survival?
2. A giant sequoia comes from a tiny cone. In the picture above, the cone for the giant sequoia is the small egg-shaped one, whereas the other cones that are much bigger come from (eventually) much smaller trees like pine. This goes to show that you can't judge one's full potential from one's modest beginnings and that sometimes the biggest things come from the humblest starts.
3. Sequoias need fire to live and grow. Fire is necessary for their survival and replication. At one time firefighters stopped forest fires too early, and this harmed the tree population; now they know the importance of allowing natural fires to do their work. Fires increase the temperature of the cones that fall from the tree, which burns away the outside and activates the seedlings inside to allow reproduction.
4. Sequoias help each other out. They grow deep roots underground and share water with each other. This is how they are able to survive extremely long periods of drought.
5. People tried to cut down giant sequoias that grew for thousands of years for their wood, just to discover they weren't really usable for that purpose. How do we avoid such mistakes in the future?