A blog focused on nature, science, environmental topics, and happenings at the Pocono Environmental Education Center (PEEC).

A Naif in the Forest by Darrell Berger

Wing Tips to Hiking Boots: Musings of a New, Full-Time Poconos Resident

A mature shagbark hickory can grow to over 100 feet and live for 350 years. The bark of the mature tree will curl up, sometimes extravagantly. The first time I saw a large one, with its several appendages jutting out all along its considerable height, I was reminded of my first scary movie: Disney’s “Snow White.”

She enters the forest and is scared by several large trees, which have not only arms, but bright, malevolent eyes! Fortunately they were rooted, or they might have pursued her to a bad fate. I hid my eyes.

Real shagbark hickories do not have eyes. They have delicious nuts everyone eats, from mice to bears to humans. The nuts lack commercial value, however, as it takes about forty years for a tree to start yielding, and even then a tree’s productivity varies considerably. Their leaves turn a golden brown in autumn, providing harmony to the reds, oranges and yellow of other species. Their wood is extremely hard. They provide vast shade in summer. They are good citizens of the forest.

I recently reviewed the “Snow White” scene. I now understand it was all in her mind. She was terrified by circumstances. The trees appeared menacing, causing her to run more deeply into the forest, which increased her fear and confusion. Yet I clearly remember my fear upon first seeing this was quite real.

So it is with fear. It can cause us to mistake good citizens as menacing evil. We can run from them, only to increase our disorientation and confusion.

Snow White was a child, her fears understandable. She had nothing to fear from the forest, as she eventually discovered. Her real danger was from the evil power in the castle. That’s the way it is with fear, at any age. We project our fears upon things and even people that, if given a chance, could be helpful, benevolent.

The shagbark hickory is our friend. We need no longer fear what scared us as children, nor fear as adults the shadows in the forest, or anywhere.



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