Advice from the Trees, by Hannah Martin

I went into White Clay Creek feeling quite lost and somber. Losing a loved one is never easy. Coping with loss is never easy. I went and sat underneath a pine tree and thought to myself: “Do trees comfort each other like they comfort me?”. If you think about it, trees are just like you and I. They live and grow in communities, some thrive, while others die off. There are all different kinds of trees, just like there are all different kinds of people. Why do some trees grow taller and stronger than their neighbors? Is it a food source problem? Is it an invasive species problem? Can some trees help out neighboring trees? These are all questions I thought to myself while in the woods on Sunday. For some reason, comparing trees to humans really inspired me to do some research when I got home.

I reached out to my friend Haley who studies mycology and biology at Slippery Rock University. She told me to listen to one of her favorite podcasts titled From Tree to Shining Tree. The thirty minute podcast dives deep into exactly how trees operate below the surface, and my comparisons of trees to humans grew stronger. The podcast discussed the relations within tree communities. They feed off of the same soil, sharing nutrients and water via their roots. Just like humans live off of the same land. New research has shown that tree roots alone do not absorb the nutrients from the soil, but it is in fact very thin strands of fungi connecting tree roots to the soil, where the nutrients are transferred. A scientist found this web of fungi beneath the surface to be some hundreds of miles long, while being thinner than a strand of hair. This new research is fascinating, but what really got my attention was the portion of the podcast that focused on how trees support each other via these intimate connections. It was explained to me that as the older trees begin to die off, they funnel their nutrients into the newer trees in the forest, basically sacrificing themselves. The older trees recognize that they are not fit to adapt to the changing and warming climate like the younger trees, so they are better off giving their nutrients to the new trees in the forest, for the betterment of the rest of the community. The intelligence of these trees really blows my mind.

Not only are trees similar to humans, they’re smarter than humans. Their ability to set aside their own well-being for the sake of the rest of the community is amazing. If only humans in their communities were as generous as trees, the world might be a better place. Humans, Americans especially, need to learn how to distribute their affluence and dismiss their status to help those in need. If humans were more empathetic to those in their community who need help or guidance, there might not be as much hatred in the world.

Chaos and Peace, by Carly Wasko

Going to White Clay Creek State Park is becoming habitual to me. I look forward to it each week. It is my place to get away from the stress of school. Normally right after my classes I go to work. I work at an afterschool care for children in grades Pre-K 3 to 8thgrade. When I go there, the chaos is nonstop. I have Pre-K kids crying and peeing themselves, and 7thgraders fighting over who could beat who in basketball. I have parents asking me why their children didn’t finish their homework and kids lying straight to their faces as a response. 4 hours a day, 5 days a week, I feel like I am in a madhouse.

When I go to White Clay I just think about how if the children I work with could just be as calm as the birds and the creek, I would not mind going to work. If they could just experience what a tame environment is, they would understand sometimes being silent is best for you. These kids are “let outside” for about an hour each day, if the weather permits. However, their “outside” time is on a parking lot. They don’t get to adventure through the trees or going near a creek. For obvious reasons, yes I understand, but I just feel bad that they are so limited.

I walked down the path with a banana in my hand. I’ve come to realize eating fruit while I walk tends to make me feel more connected to nature, even though it was a banana I got from ACME. It was nice and cool out, the weather has progressively getting colder and this makes me extremely happy. So walking in the most peaceful area around here, eating, while it was chilly, I was in my paradise. The bugs weren’t as plentiful this time around, but I could definitely hear some making a high pitch noise from far away. I see the usual amount of dog walkers and bikers and politely wave as we pass each other, knowing we will probably never see each other again. The trees looked green and leafy due to them amount of rain we have been receiving. It always amazes me how nature can just thrive off of water (from rain) and sunlight. It’s truly crazy to think of the science behind nature. In class, we talk about the science behind GMOs and chemicals in pesticides, but nothing compares to mother nature herself.

I walk past a dirty pickup truck, assuming someone is fishing nearby. I realized I had yet to see a fisherman while on these walks. I wondered how often fish are actually caught at this creek. I used to fish a lot when I was younger. My parents use to enter my brother and I in fishing competitions down at the bay. We actually won quite a few. If you won w=your age group, your prize would be a bobber/weight and a new fishing pole. The amount of fishing poles we have acquired from these competitions with our extended family is crazy. There’s at least 20 at our beach house.

I’ve noticed a lot when I go on these walks, I think more about my past and not about my future. Everything I see on these walks reminds me of something from my childhood. I guess this goes to show I was more active and adventurous when I was a kid than I am now. It’s sad how as you get older, you get more confined into spaces (work, school, car, bars, stores, etc.) When you’re a kid, the whole world is your playground.

Gifts, by Melanie Ezrin

The constant pitter patter distracts from the natural hum of White Clay Creek. It floats gently down from the gray sky in thin sheets, masking the sounds of birds, people, and other wildlife, so it is the only thing I hear. It is cold, and I grip my raincoat a little tighter, regretting my lack of foresight to bring a sweatshirt. It falls to the earth, wrapping delicately around everything it touches. It cascades down thick slabs of rocks, pools at the base of towering trees, and brings life to every crevice of the forest. Eventually, the sound blurs together, until I’m no longer truly hearing it, and it becomes a distant noise in the background. Rain.


Depending on your perspective, the arrival of rain is both a blessing and a curse. Rain disrupts our daily lives, making us feel lethargic and tired. Today’s rain made me crave nothing more than to curl up in bed with Netflix and a warm blanket. Often, it causes us to alter our plans for the day. My own family has spent numerous rainy days running errands instead of our original plans to be outside. You would think that with so many modern advantages like rainboots, raincoats, and umbrellas that we wouldn’t shy away from rain so much. That we’d be able to stick to our original plans and feel fairly comfortable. But we don’t. We hear the word rain and we frown. We immediately brainstorm backup plans in case the meteorologists are correct. Somewhere along the way we began ignoring our desires to jump in a puddle, and we forgot how beautiful the rain can be.


Perhaps this is a byproduct of increasing urbanization. In a world of local agriculture, and in most of human history, rain is a blessing. Around the world, different cultures have prayers and rituals designed specifically to call upon the heavens to bring forth rain. Some, like many Native American tribes in what became the southwest United States, performed intricate dances to appease the G-ds. Others, like the San people of southern Africa, had shamans offer sacrifices. Regardless of ritual, people all over the world have prayed for rain for thousands of years. Rain brings forth life. It replenishes groundwater stores, hydrates soil, is crucial in the transportation of plant nutrients through xylem, and provides drinking water for both wildlife and people.


However, as people distance themselves from where their food comes from, the value of rain becomes lost in the shuffle. Increasingly, people are struggling to form the connection between precipitation and the food on their dinner plates. In one breath, they complain that the rain we’re finally having after a drought is ruining their weekend plans and that there isn’t enough of their favorite vegetable in stock at the grocery store. They don’t make the connection that drought results in lower crop yield and the return of rain benefits them. We live in a world where someone can go years without seeing a farm. As a result, we’ve forgotten how much we depend on the rain.


Water is the lifeblood of our planet. It deserves our respect. It is not living, but it is within every living thing. We take it for granted, having adopted the attitude of “out of sight out of mind” over time, even though it isn’t. Whether or not we acknowledge it, we can’t escape how much water is part of our lives. We can’t survive without it, yet we regard it as a nuisance, intruding on our days. Its arrival sparks endless complaints. Yet it is people who have intruded on water. We selfishly poison it, using it as our personal trash cans. We divert its natural pathways in favor of our needs, regardless of the needs of the earth. We take, but we do not give. We ignore the respect it commands, until it forces us to remember the destruction it can cause, shaking us from our stupor. Water leaves both life and death in its wake.


Humanity would do well to remember the value of water in our lives. It may interrupt our days and preclude us from our original plans, but it deserves our respect. So I may be cold and wet as I sit in White Clay Creek. I may wish I was in my warm bed wrapped in a blanket. But I am grateful for the rain, for every drop brings life. It is a never ending present from the earth to us.