Lessons from Nature - MetroFamily Magazine
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Lessons from Nature

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Drawing lessons and analogies from nature is probably as old as nature itself. Images of nature abound in the very earliest literature, the parables of Jesus being a perfect example of the use of images from nature to communicate profound truth in a subtle yet powerful way for those who have “ears to hear and eyes to see.” One aspect of a classical education is to develop in students just such ears and eyes; unfortunately, as we’ve grown further from regular, direct contact with nature, these lessons have become more challenging to impart.

On a recent family vacation, we had the privilege of being in the presence of something truly unique in nature: the giant Sequoias. They only grow in this one area of California—nowhere else on the planet—and they grow to be hundreds of feet tall and thousands of years old—literally! We saw trees that have been growing since the time of Christ and before, towering over 400 feet above the forest floor. There are no words to describe the sense of awe we experienced as we walked through their domain, learning about their characteristics from the carefully placed signs throughout the park.


  1. Their seeds cannot be released from the cones except by fire—the extreme heat causes the cones to release the seeds;
  2. They require a particular kind of soil, which contains ash—this means there must be forest fires from time to time to burn other, smaller trees and plants to turn them to ash;
  3. They possess an outer, spongy covering which is impervious to disease and insects;
  4. Their roots do not go particularly deep—they extend horizontally and become interwoven with the roots of other Sequoias, providing the necessary ballast to keep these towering giants from toppling over;
  5. They must have just the right temperature, just the right amount of water, just the proper amount of sunlight, and be at precisely the correct altitude to grow;
  6. They only die if they fall over, which only occurs when lightning strikes a tree, or when other trees fall, affecting the supporting root system.

I’m no expert at drawing analogies from nature, but here are my thoughts: life comes through death and hardship—it takes fiery trials to bring forth the next generation. We need to feed on the lessons learned from those who have gone before us—their lives and lessons form the soil in which we grow. We need the support of those around us, lest we topple over and die—we keep our balance only to the extent that our roots are interwoven with those of our fellow human beings.

As I prepare for the upcoming school year, I will keep in my mind a lasting impression of the great Sequoias. Hopefully, as I teach my students that the hard things are the best things, to listen to those who’ve gone before, and to value and support those going through life alongside them, our classroom will provide the proper conditions for cultivating human beings of great stature and an eternal perspective.

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