The Beauty Under Everything, by Natalie Fuhr

I’ve lived within walking distance of White Clay my whole life. I’ve run on the majority of the trails countless times, hiked with my family, biked, swam, and climbed. This park is my happy place, my second church, the biggest room inside my heart.

White Clay has taught me the beauty in silence. I walked down Creek Road into White Clay yesterday afternoon, just listening; listening to my screaming thoughts, the rare bird call, the happy runners, the steady drip of melting snow on the pavement. I’ve always been struck by the fact that despite walking down this road hundreds of times, I always find something new to marvel at, a glimpse into another world. Yesterday (probably because of my crappy mood), the sticker bushes and vines creeping up from the ground caught my attention. They were the only things green among the trees and low-lying native bushes surrounding the trees. They had an unfair advantage, being alive and awake and active before the woods had fully arisen from its long winter reverie.

It got me considering the parallels to my own life … oftentimes, I feel like a tree attempting to find a little respite from the intensity of life, only to find yet another question to answer, another financial issue, another stressful assignment or relational dilemma to consume my thoughts and energy; energy that I don’t have to give. At what point does one say, ‘Enough is enough’? When does just tired become unhealthy? When does too much stress become unrealistically unmanageable? Sometimes I feel like I’m being pulled in so many directions at once that I can’t hear myself think. And when it’s quiet, my whole being is screaming.

Vines, especially non-native species of vines, are some of the most dangerous actors in the woods for an average tree’s health. The vines suppress tree growth, they reduce the structural stability of the trees, and they leech off the tree’s resources. Trees with vines growing on them tend to die much sooner than uninhibited trees. It may take years, but the vines usually win the slow and silent battle that constantly ravages the forest. It’s even more concerning that most of the vines that wreak havoc on the woods are not native to the United States. There are currently about 150 species of non-native vines in the United States right now.[1]The fact that they are not native makes it much more difficult to eradicate them, which only decreases a tree’s chance of survival.

Do trees feel themselves being choked to death by vines and sticker bushes? Do they consider the fact of their imminent death approaching? Do they wonder what life would have been like if things were different? Do they waste away regretting the past and worrying about the future? Or, are they blissfully unaware of their own fate until it one day literally creeps up on them. If trees could talk, this is what I would ask them. I have a feeling that we’d have a lot in common: seemingly anchored but being choked from the ground up.

[1]“Vines Choking Out Trees in the Tropics.” NPR, NPR, 18 Oct. 2013,

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