Of course, Hurricane Michael comes on the heels of Hurricane Florence, which earlier slammed into the Carolinas. The terrible toll of death and destruction left in the path of both of the these storms will be felt for quite some time. I pray for those living in the aftermath as they pick up the pieces of their lives and go forward.
As is looked at pictures and saw drone footage of the recent destruction, I was saddened. But, I could not help but notice a pattern in nature. Trees everywhere were devastated, with the exception of one type: the simple palm tree. For the most part, this latter species of tree seemed somehow to stand the storms far better than its counterparts.
So, I naturally asked myself why this was. And while I am no arborist by trade, my research seems to have revealed three significant reasons why palm trees tend to survive hurricanes when other trees do not.
The main reason has to do with the structure of their leaves. Rather than numerous limbs and branches full of thousands of leaves spread over a lush canopy, a palm tree has a far fewer number of long and slender leaves that can rather easily be disposed of in fierce winds. Thus, the palm tree loses its leaves much easier than any other tree loses its branches. And once the leaves have gone, there isn't much left to catch the wind. Hence, the tree is not as susceptible to wind damage in a prolonged storm.
The second reason is that a palm tree also has a very flexible trunk. The structure of palm trees is not like that of other trees. The latter grow in a radial manner, producing the well-known tree ring pattern. Conversely, palm trees grow more in a cylindrical nature. This sinewy structure allows the palm to bend and sway as much as fifty degrees in the wind without snapping.
Lastly, palm trees have a rather shallow root system as compared to more sturdy trees, such as hardwoods. In addition to gathering more nutrients from surface water in sandy soil, a shallower and thinner root system spread over a larger area gives the palm tree a larger footprint, and therefore a greater area of support by which it is anchored.
Can we learn anything from all of this? It seems we can. For one thing, storms are a part of life. These storms can manifests themselves in many ways - physical, psychological, emotional, relational, financial, social, political, and yes, even spiritual. What is more, it has often been noted that every single person is either just now coming out of a storm, in the midst of as storm, or else heading into a storm.
So, then, how best do we survive these inevitable storms of life? We can learn from the simple palm tree, and best survive life’s storms by realizing that we must be willing to let go of certain things. And this is true no matter how full they might appear to make us, or even if we have been attached to them for a length of time. Even good things can become burdensome at times. Therefore, learning to let go of a load of inessentials that can easily be replaced later is a good way to get through a difficult time.
Another way to survive a storm is to learn to be flexible. While standing strong is the ultimate goal, being rigid and inflexible is not. Palm trees survive by being flexible and so do people. Learning to give and take without giving any real ground is a fine art that most of us would do well to develop.
And lastly, we survive storms best by making certain that we have the proper grounding. An intricate network of roots – social and spiritual - spread out over a wide area will give best us the support we need to hold our ground. Equally as important, these roots will then enable us to quickly rebound by reabsorbing the life-giving nurture we need to get over our battering and sprout new foliage and fruit for the future.
Then we will be like the righteous person described in Psalm 1, verse 3: “That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither - whatever they do prospers.”
INFORMATION SOURCE: https://www.treehugger.com/natural-sciences/how-do-palm-trees-survive-hurricanes.html.
SCRIPTURE SOURCE: https://www.biblehub.com/psalms/1-3.htm.
NOTE: Here is a video of what is left of Mexico Beach, FL where my family once had property that is now completely gone after Hurricane Michael: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qXCgj2G7giw.