Why I Look To The Trees For Design and Health Continuity

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Today there is an absorbent amount of information readily available for whatever issue is at hand. People are becoming more specialized and willingly ready or already sharing what they know. Since childhood, I look to the trees for continuity.

Last year I heard Ed Catmul say “art is about seeing,” as he explained how he created a culture without a power structure to eliminate barriers to truth. “You have to go (through failure) to get something you don’t know.”

Trees communicate design intelligence. We see their uniqueness, alive or rotted, and hear them when it’s windy. They morph into numerous shapes that range from solid to thin forms.

Trees give and support my ability to be creative. Often their waste is the expense for my ideas to become tangible.

Trees resemble their health. They endure seasons while stretching upward and outward. Trees withstand beastly spiders or engraved sentiments. A tree may quit producing fruit but continue to live or be cut while it’s healthy for a different use.

Like people, trees remain upright while enduring aging. Slowly their finer qualities are striped away. A strong storm may break it at it’s weakest point if it doesn’t naturally fall. Yet, it may become a refuge or bridge for another.

Roger Martin identified two economies: talent and organized. The talent economy is highly specialized, “a linch-pin asset” while the organized economy offers people that can be substituted.

Trees are both talented and organized. They offer assets including food and wood but they can be substituted with alternative materials like plastic and metal.  I find my self comforted by this since I, too, am both economies.

“You have to show up as your authentic self. You have to be you. If you don’t love what you do you’re not going to do a very good job at it. And it starts here, in your heart, and that’s where it radiates out from.” Nashan Sheppard fixed my eyes back on the trees with that statement.

Trees are their intention. They repeatedly produce gifts like shade, fruit, and natural resources. They require the necessary climate and resources for their species to thrive.

As I plant myself in various environments each uniquely impacts my form of communication and behavior style. Influencers to my quality of production include food, sleep, activity, and relationships. Wes Jackson stated “continuity is more important than ingenuity”. The turning point in my life was as I became aware that continuity began wherein my roots existed.

It’s really easy to take on a victim mentality when fixed on the succession to family genes, an appointed task, accommodations, or relational roles. As I identify my roots as the unbroken, continuous producers of my performance the survivor remains strong.

Trees are not victims. Their roots are deep and sustaining survival to provide shade, fruit, or shelter for birds. Being a survivor secures healthy roots that ultimately impacts future generations. Even when a tree is cut down they become a new resource while maintaining their authenticity.

Since the first of memories trees have been an active part of what I see, do, hear, smell, and taste. They will continue to exist with me and beyond my existence.

The tree is a muse. It’s a performance mosaic for continuity. This ecological frame of mind is consistently in sight with this subtle reminder: sufficiency of capital, design, or health is dependent on the sufficiency of people. To offer my talent, remain organized, be intentional, and live as a survivor will enable health and design continuity rooted in being well.