Make like a tree and slow down

Should we humans imitate trees and enter a dormant state during late fall or early winter?

My walking partner told me about hearing from someone living in upstate New York who said the downed trees there — the result of an early snow — made the region look worse than when it experienced a hurricane.  The trees hadn’t had time to enter their dormant phase before the first snow dropped in.  Dormancy is a period of arrested growth, which begins when cold weather sets in and serves to protect the trees from freezing and breaking.

My husband complains that his annual period of unarrested growth begins on Thanksgiving Day and lasts well into the spring. One reason to consider dormancy would be to control our fall and winter eating.

A friend and I mused about the idea that perhaps our psyches enter a dormant-like state as the seasons change. She’s feeling somewhat dissatisfied about how she’s spending her time, lacks enthusiasm for her normal activities, and wonders if she should focus on something else.  Or does she just need rest, along with “minimizing metabolic activity and conserving energy“?

It is possible for some trees to grow steadily for two seasons, but when this happens “it is stressful to the plant and usually fatal.” If we do not experience some minimal slowdown this time of year, should we?  More people die in January than any other month. “Two spikes in mortality from natural causes happened almost every year from 1973 to 2001: one on December 25 and the other on January 1. Five percent more people die natural deaths on the holidays.

From Halloween through New Years Day we rush around madly — shopping, partying, often spending more time than usual with family and friends, cooking and overeating with no breaks.  It could be time to act like trees, close down a little, take in less food.  Tree care specialists call for pruning and aerating during this time of year, which for humans might mean shedding a few pounds and getting outdoors and exercising.  One advantage to living in the Pacific Northwest is that we have more opportunities to live like a tree in the winter, at least as it’s described by Joyce Kilmer:  “Upon whose bosom snow has lain; Who intimately lives with rain.”

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About stillalife

I retired June 30, 2010 after working for 40 years in the field of education and most recently doing school public relations/community outreach in a mid-size urban school district. I wrote for superintendents and school board members. Now I'm writing for me and I hope for you. In this blog, I offer my own views coupled with the latest research on how to preserve our physical and mental health as we age, delve into issues most of us over 50 can relate to like noticing wrinkles and forgetting where we left our keys, discuss the pros and cons of different ways to engage our minds and bodies after we leave the workplace, and throw in an occasional book review, all peppered with a touch of humor, irony, and just plain silliness.
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One Response to Make like a tree and slow down

  1. Dick Clark says:

    Good reminder — and my grandmother who thought Kilmer’s poem was the best one ever written would have loved your post.

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