California’s oldest living tree is a Jurupa Oak in Riverside County, California reported to be 13,000 years old. If you were to plant a Juropa Oak seedling in the surrounding terrain, experts doubt it would take root. In fact, you’d have to travel 30 miles to find another Juropa Oak. Such is this particular 13,000 year old tree’s amazing ability to last through the ages in conditions not favorable to its existance. What can be learned from an organism with such endurance?
When the trunk of the Jurupa Oak is destroyed by burning, new shoots pop up all around it from the roots. Similarly, pine tree cones will store their seeds for years until the heat of forest fires causes the pines to open up and release the seeds. In other words, the most enduring species in our world, things that live thousands of years, depend on fire to trigger regeneration and rebirth.
In 2009, so many of us experienced a different kind of fire that incinerated our finances if not our emotional well-being. In the heat of the moment, these fires are brutally painful. But in the years to come, we will perceive the smoldering fires of 2009 as necessary means to a brilliant and beautiful future. Here are 3 reasons why…
1. New Direction
For so many of us, it feels like someone took a blowtorch to our savings and nest egg which are now smoldering remnants of what once was a healthy forest of assets. We can be pissed and bitter for so long but notice how the heat of those emotions, as they effect the pine cone, can also reveal within you new life, new freedom, a new path…so long as you get back on your feet and move the ball forward. S.I. Hayakawa said, “Notice the difference between what happens when a man says to himself, ‘I have failed three times,’ and what happens when he says, ‘I am a failure.’ ”
2. Enriched Life Experience
I couldn’t help but look at the above picture of the 13,000 year old Juropa Oak with reverence. For cryin’ out loud, the thing has been around since the Ice Age. There are a certain group of humans who you might say have a durability comparable to the ancient Juropa Oak. The Abkhasian* people of Central Asia routinely live into their 90’s and 100’s and often report only having been sick once in an entire lifetime. Part of their ability to live happily with great longevity is the fact that in their culture, one’s status increases with age. The elderly are seen as beautiful with silver hair and wrinkles being signs of wisdom and maturity. In the Abkhasian language, there is not a term for “old people.” Rather, they are referred to as “long-living people.” *
Things are much different in America where we tend to totally forget about our elders. Why? Compared to the Abkhasians, we have litte respect for life experience whether in the old, middle aged, or young. Any hardship you have endured adds to your character, wisdom, and perspective. And anyone who knows their ass from their elbow will, like the Abkhasian, respect one who has been through hell and highwater. Helen Keller said, “Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, vision cleared, ambition inspired, and success achieved.”
3. Stronger Relationships
The Vilcabamban* people of Ecuador’s Andes Mountains are another indigenous culture that is revered for its peoples’ ability to live happy lives deep into old age. One notable quality of the Vilcabambans…they don’t armor themselves against the pain of life and “they have not withdrawn from one another into shells.” They consider struggle to be part of the process. The Vilcabamban live in close-knit families and help one another through tough times. “Their spirits are connected to each other, their smiles all the deeper for all they have known and shared.” *
Like the Vilcabamban, the 13,000 Juropa Oak is in essence more than one tree, it is a close family of trees having cloned itself many times over. And that family of trees, in spite of residing in over-populated over-polluted Southern California, lives on year after year. That is the most important lesson that we can learn from this ancient tree. To endure life successfully means not that you have avoided the greatest hardships and dodged the hottest fires. Rather, you’ve used those hardships and fires to make you stronger, to reveal new emotions, to deepen your roots, to enhance your relations.
*from HEALTHY AT 100 by John Robbins