Thursday, October 09, 2014

Slow Growth

Yesterday, taking the dogs for a walk, my friend-family the Hurns and I encountered some very old growth oak trees. Jubilee Park used to be a location for anti-aircraft machinery in WWII. Now it is a wildlife preserve. Despite the great clearing that occurred in preparation for its defensive purposes, oak trees kept their hold in some places, so now these heritage woods patches can frolic free in the windy plain.

The night before, the BBC reported that trees like these are in trouble in Britain. If you place any population on an island like this - and yes, it is an island - once contamination hits, it spreads like proverbial wildfire. In fact, an algae or fungus - I've forgotten which - has begun to spread, taking out these trees from the bark side in. It turns out the cure is garlic - concentrated, pumped under the outside edges, the garlic is an anti-fungal. However, some argue, just like antibiotics in our system, these anti-fungals wipe out all fungus, including good, useful fungus needed for other thriving. So it's a quick - but strangely expensive - cure. As is often the case with fast solutions, perhaps more trouble than it is benefit.
As is commonly the case when I visit the Hurns, we have many ongoing conversations about personal things, natural and historical topics, and literature. This time, because I have just read Signature of All Things (and got a copy for June), which, amongst other topics, mentions the long history of the Kew Gardens, we were discussing botanical legacies. How long certain trees have been here, how long they might last.

It takes a long, long time to grow a tree. Oaks, especially are slow growers: strong and hardy, but it takes awhile for such toughness to occur. Still, worms can find their way into the wood and through it, as June showed me in the steeple door at the church last night. Oak can hold up against the rising and falling tides of the Thames, as we saw it do this morning on the dock at the Woolwich Ferry. But like its slow growth, Oak, too, disintegrates slowly, and eventually rots and needs replacing.

Lately I have been thinking a lot about how long it takes to grow anything - my ten years of teaching/business, six years of marriage, thirty-eight years of life. Growth is constant - it keeps going, even in a brief period after death! Lately I have relaxed a lot about growth - mine, that of my business, that of my wife - taking on the perspective that perhaps "slow and steady" does win the race. Not that I want to win anything - I simply hope to complete it having caused as much benefit as I can.

I'll pick slow growth over fast any day. This wasn't always the case, when I wanted things to move more quickly as a young person. But for now it suits me just fine.

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