Sunday, December 5, 2010

Tree Rings Record History

Early December finds us between two great holidays. Thanksgiving has just allowed us to reflect on the past year and give thanks to God for His provision to us. Looking forward, Christmas offers us the opportunity to turn thankful hearts toward the greatest reason for “thanks-giving” – the gift of God’s Son Who was born of a lowly peasant girl betrothed to a carpenter. As we remember the Savior’s birth in Bethlehem two thousand years ago, may His indwelling Spirit stir us in renewed hope for the coming return and reign of Christ, our Creator Who is already at work “to reconcile all things to Himself...whether things on Earth or things in heaven (Colossians 1:20).”

Because God wants his people to remember His deeds and to be thankful, He has provided tools to help us to be remembering, thankful people. Thus, God has given most of us a memory– at least for the younger years of life. Because of the finiteness of human life and our limited capacity to learn and remember large amounts of information, our God-given creativity provides another tool for remembering. Many cultures have gone beyond oral tradition to record information on rock and cave surfaces, or on animal skins (parchments) or on paper made from plant fibers. The Hebrew tradition beginning at the time of Moses involved meticulous hand-copying of the content of God’s special revelation, resulting in the Old and New Testament Scriptures today.

Of major importance to recorded history are trees which provide pulpwood used to make paper. But there is a second way that trees are involved in recording information; namely, by their annual growth rings which provide a record of history that may extend backward for centuries. The examination of tree rings in Rocky Mountain Bristlecone Pines by Brunstein and Yamaguchi(1) have revealed individual trees that were over 2,400 years old. More recently, combining ring chronologies of living and fossilized tree trunks has attempted to extend the span of historic and ecological knowledge backward to over 4,000 years (2).

The science of dendrochronology utilizes the number and width of annual growth rings of trees to determine the ages of trees and forest communities as well as to infer climate trends and ecological impacts such as fire, insect attacks, and disease. Thus, the number and width of rings as seen in the cross-section (or hollow-bore drill samples) of tree trunks and branches provide an indication of each year’s effect on growth, for better or worse.

This past summer, Abby and I removed a large Colorado Blue Spruce tree that had begun to overtop our house and replaced the tree with a perennial garden. When the tree finally rested on the ground, we were greeted with an interesting chronology of its life displayed on the cut stump. I have photographed the stump and marked the chronology back to its first year of life, probably somewhere in a tree nursery. The photo and chronology can be viewed at “Silvius Tree Ring Timeline.”

As you can see from the photograph and the chronology of highlights, our family has experienced some of the same joys and trials as those of many other families. Throughout this time, the tree was steadily growing new wood each year, some years having more favorable growth and wider rings than others. During certain years, our family were forced to “branch out” into new challenges that affected us for years to come. Likewise, tree branches can be seen in radial patterns across the annual rings and they, too, require adjustments in growth of the tree trunk.

We understand that as the winds cause trees to sway and twist they also cause the tree to develop stronger wood in the trunk and branches. Although it is sometimes hard, a thankful family will also thank God for the challenging storms as well as the sunny days of life.

We have recorded only a few highlights of the past 35 years, but as our family grew physically, emotionally, and spiritually through the joys and trials, we have learned more about God’s grace, mercy, and loving kindness. Perhaps you will join us in looking back across time to thank God for His blessings in your life and family; and then, look forward to Christmas with hope and joy. Indeed, one of the main focuses of Christmas is the “Christmas tree” which reminds us of our Creator Who came to Earth as the Light of the World. During His early years, Jesus labored with wood in a carpenter shop. Then, his three years of public ministry ended when He willingly gave up his life as he “hung on a tree” bearing our sin to provide for our atonement with God.

Thank you God for your Word, inspired through your Holy Spirit, and recorded on paper by many different authors. Thank You for trees from which paper and many wood products are made. Thanks for their beauty and grace while they live, providing shade, protection from wind, and an annual growth of edible leaves and fruits to give food to mankind and many different creatures. Thank You also that trees can tower above us and cause us to see our own creations of towers and buildings in proper perspective. Finally, we thank You that many trees outlive us and remind us of our finiteness and dependence upon You our Creator and Savior. As trees “record” our history, may we see that history as evidence of Your work in our lives and families because we trust You as the giver of “every good gift that comes down from above.”

1 See Brunstein, F. C. and D.K. Yamaguchi. 1994. Arctic and Alpine Research 24(3): 253-256.

2 Web Article: Lorey, F. 1994. Tree Rings and Biblical Chronology. Acts & Facts. 23: (6).


Anonymous said...

Very nice and thoughful piece, Dad ! :)

Anonymous said...

Thank God that as long as we are alive we are growing - just like those trees. Thanks for the reminder! - Roger Smith, Brazil

tammy said...

We also have a troublesome spruce that is just now dropping copious sharp needles that are impossible not to track in. It needs to go. It is way older that yours and I wonder what story its rings tell. I think it was planted after serving as a Christmas tree.

I love how trees not only record history on their bodies, but also provide us the paper we use to record our memories.

May our "tree cookies" be sweet savors to Him!