Friday, September 5, 2008

Wood or Concrete?

By Lonnie Cruse

Which is stronger, wood or concrete? Which survives better? Longer? Hmmm, well, let's see.

A very large, very old, very strong tree can be sawn in half and dropped to the ground with something as light and as old fashioned as a cross cut saw. It would take something a lot stronger to cut into concrete. And the remaining wood can be burned down into nothing but ashes. Concrete can survive both the saw and the fire. A direct lightening strike can cause a tree to explode. Not so with concrete. A wooden porch will not likely last as long as a concrete porch (which is why we used concrete on our proches. And no re-finishing every year with wood preservative.) Freezing can crack concrete, but it will split wood much quicker.

Hmmm. So far, concrete is winning the toughness test. Or is it? Look closely at the pictures below.

I pass by this corner on a country back road probably a couple of times a week, on my way from Metropolis to Paducah. It takes drivers around rather than through Metropolis. On a recent trip I happened to glance over and spotted the ancient concrete post (covered in barbed wire) marking the edge of the road. But instead of the concrete and barbed wire forcing the tree to bend away, the tree is actually growing AROUND the post, from the bottom up. This process has obviously taken quite a few years. But baring a lightening strike, disease, accident, or other disaster, this tree will eventually grow around the entire post, hiding it from sight. Future generations might not know the post was ever there. The weaker is slowly but surely overtaking the stronger.

I don't know about you, but I'm not always the world's best judge of people. Yes, I'm a people watcher, but I don't always gauge them correctly according to their strengths or internal resourses. Case in point, many years ago a couple who are both very close to us lost their son in an accident. Within seconds of hearing the awful news my first thought was that *she* would never recover, but *he* would because he was the stronger of the two. Boy, howdy, was I wrong. Yeah, she took it hard. What mother wouldn't? So did he. But she survived with such grace and courage that it amazed all who knew her. Like that tree, she kept growing, kept overcoming until now, over twenty years later she has grown around the disaster and is covering it, rather than it covering her.

When I spotted that tree, I knew I had to snap some pictures and share. I hope this tree inspires you--as it has me--to be stronger than whatever life throws at us. To somehow overcome the concrete posts in our lives. To survive.


Paul Lamb said...

This process has the fancy name of inosculation.

Cait London said...

I think this inosculation process as Paul says, is fascinating. A bullet embedded in a tree trunk at one height can be hidden for years, or maybe forever. The story possibilities are huge.

Lonnie Cruse said...

Ahhh, thanks Paul and Cait, I didn't know the term for it. I'm always facinated by trees with odd shapes.