I enjoyed the story by Cooper Davis that appeared in the Gazette on Dec. 5 titled “Naturalist Rose Treat on the Art of Living at 100.” I have come to know Rose over the last few years and have made time to visit with her for an occasional lunch. My visits are always rewarded with a new story as well as familiar tales illustrating her remarkable life.
In the story I was struck by a passage, “She sees herself within the context of the earth’s history, as opposed to the history of mankind.” Simply put, Rose Treat lives on earth time. This reveals an essential quality about Rosie — she hasn’t let the confines of her own biological being determine how she interprets her surroundings. The way she lives, the way she studies nature, the way she walks, puts her in step with earth time. In our busy human lives, it is easy to forget that we are a small part of something profoundly greater. We owe it to ourselves and this planet to live on earth time, to observe, study, marvel at, and most of all protect the diversity of life on earth.
The concept of earth time is not new to me; I was taught many lessons from another centurion female mentor, Polly Hill. Polly often reminded me not to dwell on losses. She saw a fallen tree as an opportunity for new growth. Recently at the arboretum I was faced with the reality that a large portion of our natural woodland was killed by successive years of attack by the fall canker worm. Strangely, I did not feel sad, or blame the loss of trees to the native insect pest. I view the forest as alive as ever with fungi decomposing trees, birds nesting in rotting wood, and life brought about by new light shining on the forest floor. It put things in a better context for me; earth time allows for healing.
As we travel through the seasons of our lives in earth time we are more likely to notice and value the subtle differences in the biological world that each passing day brings. Living in earth time can have a profound effect on how we look at our world and how we can participate as stewards of our environment. With Rosie as an inspiration I suggest this resolution for 2009: give yourself some earth time; it’s right outside the door waiting.
Tim Boland is executive director of the Polly Hill Arboretum.