A lesson in self-preservation — take it from the trees

Why did these leaves wait until there was snow on the ground to fall?

It’s never too late to learn a lesson you snoozed through in high school biology.

Especially when it provides a metaphor that smacks you upside the head.

The science: When trees shed their leaves in autumn, there’s more going on than cold temperatures and wind wreaking havoc. Deciduous trees are wired for “abscission,” an active process of willful shedding that keeps them alive so they can bloom again in spring.

Last Saturday morning, as I looked out my kitchen window and listened to the coffee maker gurgle, a strong breeze whipped the leaves off the trees by the hundreds. They darted every which way before settling onto the snow-covered ground.

It’s dangerous to think too much before coffee, as it can lead to mixed metaphors. So be it. Here goes:

A prevailing mindset is that outside forces take things from us, harm us, leave us less than whole. This is true, certainly, when others steal from us, hurt us physically or harm a loved one.

But I’m referring to toxic people or situations that cause us emotional harm, or make us feel mistreated or abused. Too often we allow these outside forces to strip us of our happiness, leaving us less than healthy. We’re weaker, damaged, barren. We appear more vulnerable, and in some ways we are.

What may help deal with those negative forces (which could include your job, your neighborhood, bad actors in your life) is to tell yourself, “Wait! Let’s try abscission!”

It’s not anyone else or anything else taking anything from you. Rather, you’re the one deciding what to get rid of and when. So shed what you don’t need. All the negativity, the toxic stuff, all of it is in those leaves falling to the ground.

You’re wired for survival, and you made that happen. You may look more vulnerable for a while, but that’s part of the deal.

And here’s the coolest thing about abscission: After the tree sheds a leaf, it seals off the section of the branch where the stem was attached. This prevents any other outside forces from getting in and doing harm.

And then, in spring, the tree decides when it’s ready to bloom again.


About Jim McKeever

Writer, father, runner, advocate based in Central New York.
This entry was posted in crime, Irish Investigations, peace and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to A lesson in self-preservation — take it from the trees

  1. Joseph McKeever says:


    Well done! Right on the money. I like the factoid about abscission. We have power over ourselves to a great extent and the trees will be a reminder to me. We have the deciduous tree in the back so I have many opportunities for invoking your excellent metaphorical wisdom. I’ll pass this one along. Thanks.


    Sent from my iPhone

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Reblogged this on Martha Keim-St. Louis' blog and commented:
    From a real smart guy. I can’t write like this anymore


  3. Jim I love this metaphor – great post!
    Diana xo


  4. markbialczak says:

    You live, you learn, you remember what you forgot. I hope the bad (people, places, things) has fallen and fresh growth is ready to take its place, my friend.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Thank you for the wonderful lesson. So….in some regards I can decide when to, or if to, rake up those leaves?

    Liked by 1 person

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