There was a chill in the air this morning, with the temperature hovering around fifty degrees. A thin overcast and a brisk wind made it feel cooler. Billowing flurries of orange and brown and yellow leaves fell from trees in sheets as the wind gusts caught them. The air flow sent them away in torrents as if they were fleeing in terror from some invisible predator.
Perhaps they were. Perhaps we humans are arrogant in our belief that we understand “lower life forms.” Trees may have perceptual abilities equivalent to those processed by our brains and our nervous systems, only much more advanced. They may possess an understanding of the universe far deeper than humans can ever hope to achieve. We, it may turn out, are the deviant lethargic learners, the users of antediluvian nervous systems so primitive that trees and bushes and shrubs and even grasses find us humorous in our plodding ineptitude. We may be pawns, used merely for the entertainment of the denizens of forests and prairies and submarine life forms and other such creatures we consider lesser beings. We, not our dogs and cats, are the pets. We have been trained to feed them and breed them. We are servants, tricked into believing we are masters.
Plants and animals watch us in bemused detachment as we disassemble the planet we think we’ve conquered. We scramble to stop our own self-destructive behavior, occasionally thinking that we’re also destroying the planet for other creatures. We don’t realize we’re simply undoing the place suitable for ourselves. Other plants and animals understand they can and will regenerate this place they call home once we’re gone. Their only concern is where they will find their next pets and servants.
There’s “talk” among the other species about whether pine forests and tallgrass prairies should rise up against us. Most of the colonies of ants and the libraries of lichens argue against it, saying humans as entertainment demand they be kept as pets, if for no other reason. But, during a recent interspecies thinkalong, an exaltation of larks and a pride of lions spoke in favor extinction. Various kingdoms and phyla took positions simply for the enjoyment of argumentation. All of this right under our noses, as it were.
As I look out the window, I wonder if individual leaves on the trees outside can sense my presence in some manner and can, in fact, catalog my thoughts in the trunks of the trees on which they hang. Yes, I believe they can. If we were sufficiently advanced, we would be able to examine tree rings in a way that would reveal every experience the tree ever had. We could actually relive years past as if looking at a videotape of captured images. But there would be much more. The tree rings would have captured temperatures and tastes and relative humidity, along with light levels and the presence or absence of pollen and dust in the air. Oh, if we were as smart as trees, we would view the world from a different vantage point. And we would bow to the trees the way we ask nature to bow to our demands.
I learned all of these possibilities by watching the trees out my window this morning. It’s amazing what can flood into it when you open your mind to possibilities.