Ten inspiring lessons from trees

Person sitting on log in the forest

Trees have lots to teach about the natural world and humanity’s place in it. Inspired by Tu B’Shvat, an ancient Jewish “new year for trees,” we’ve compiled 10 inspiring lessons from trees and five ways you can celebrate and honour them. (Photo: Esther Tuttle via Unsplash)

Tu B’Shvat is a Jewish holiday marking the “new year for trees.” It’s a celebration of food trees’ annual cycle. While specific observances of the day have evolved over some 20 centuries, it’s more important than ever to celebrate and honour trees.

Trees sequester carbon, produce oxygen, regulate temperature, prevent erosion and provide wildlife habitat. Beyond their critical role in maintaining the balance of Earth’s atmosphere and biodiversity, trees can also teach us valuable lessons about the natural world and our place in it.

Ten ways to be like a tree

  1. Always grow toward the light. Live righteously and let your reach exceed your grasp.
  2. Know the smallest scratch can have lasting effects. Be mindful of what you’re teaching children and others who will follow you.
  3. Provide refuge. Trees give food, shade and shelter. Be a source of comfort. Provide for others in need.
  4. Share your fruits. Proactively reach out to bring sweetness and sustenance to others.
  5. Waste nothing. Nature never wastes. Tree leaves fall and enrich the soil for new growth. Give back to the world to sustain others.
  6. Be supple in the wind. You’re the product of billions of years of evolution. You may be stronger than you think. Bend like the willow to survive life’s storms.
  7. Grow stronger through life experiences. Just like a tree’s rings record its journey through drought and rain, fire and calm, let life add layers of wisdom as you grow.
  8. Be a team player. In The Hidden Life of Trees, Peter Wohlleben says “a tree can be only as strong as the forest that surrounds it.” Co-operate. Collaborate. Support each other.
  9. Have a lasting impact. Trees provide oxygen, clean air and water, enrich the soil and support other life after they fall. Leave the world a better place.
  10. Be rooted. You’re standing on the shoulders of those who came before you, including all life with which — as the Declaration of Interdependence says — we share, “a common history, written in our genes.”
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Five ways to celebrate trees

Even if you don’t mark Tu B’Shvat, celebrate trees by focusing on the holiday’s environmental themes and use it as an opportunity to learn and appreciate trees’ critical role in your life and in nature. Here are a few ideas:

  1. Plant a tree. A traditional way to celebrate Tu B’Shvat is to plant a tree. Find a local organization involved in tree planting or plant one in your yard or community.
  2. Learn about the importance of trees. Take some time to learn about the many ways trees benefit the environment, including by providing oxygen, supporting biodiversity and sequestering carbon dioxide.
  3. Take a nature walk. Be mindful of the trees you encounter. Try to identify them. Look and listen closely — trees are full of life. Draw them. Talk to them. Nature calms the brain and heals the body.
  4. Have a tree-themed meal. Feature trees foods, such as fruit, nuts and honey. Support local, organic sources if you can.
  5. Support organizations that work to protect trees. Consider donating to and/or volunteering for organizations (like ours!) that work to protect and preserve trees and forests.