Greensburg Daily News, Greensburg, IN

Church

May 3, 2014

Ronnie McBrayer: Grow old, grow strong

New research from the US Geological Survey has uprooted decades of established dendrological study. Not familiar with dendrology? It is the scientific word for botanical studies related to trees. And it turns out that science has been barking up the wrong tree for some time now.

The conventional understanding has been that young trees are healthier and grow faster than old trees, not unlike human beings. Then, when a tree reaches maturity, it stops. Not so, says the new research. Trees reach a limit as far as height goes, yes, but they never stop growing out. In fact, trees grow faster the older they get.

Again, this sounds human-like. Eventually we stop growing up, but we start growing out – thickening in the middle. But trees aren’t putting on fat, as it were; they are packing on pure botanical muscle. When properly rooted, getting the sustenance needed, trees get stronger the older they get.

This “discovery” is nothing new. An ancient sage long ago understood this principle as he or she penned what we now call Psalm 1. Speaking of those who are rooted in the words and way of God, the writer said: “They are strong, like a tree planted by a river. The tree produces fruit in season, and its leaves don’t die. Everything they do will succeed.”

It’s not unlikely that Psalm 1 dates back to the time of the Jewish exodus out of Egypt, and that’s important to the image this Psalm portrays. Egypt was, and remains, largely desert. But the country, for its entire history, has had one life-giving source of abundance: the Nile River.

Its more than three million square miles of waterless earth holding rocks, mountains, and sand dunes higher than sky scrapers. Temperatures can exceed 130 degrees in the day and drop to freezing at night. Gale force winds are common. The Sahara is the most caustic climate on earth, and still, there are trees growing and blooming in that endless desert.

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