It’s autumn. Fall. My favorite season. And I am leaving it all behind to return to hot and humid Florida. My time on the lake is over. The recreation town is empty. The cottages are being winterized. Firewood is being sold alongside the pumpkins. Chipmunks are chirping. And yes, leaves are falling. It looks like the trees are dying and soon, they will actually look dead.
But they aren’t. They are actually surviving. If the leaves kept drinking water, when the temperatures drop to freezing, the water inside the tree would freeze and kill the tree.
If the trees didn’t drop the leaves, they wouldn’t have the ability to withstand the weight of snow on their branches.
And in the winter, the fallen leaves on the forest floor insulate trees’ roots from the cold – and will decompose to enrich the soil and provide nutrients to other plants.
Meanwhile, the bark provides insulation for the tree in the winter (while protecting the tree from disease, pests, and fire during warmer months).
What does this have to do with freedom?
Lately, I’ve been wondering what the solution is to the destruction of American society. (Yes, please buy my book The Unraveling: The American Fabric Undone.) And I’ve always said that freedom principles are the solution to every problem and decision. And I love to mix my metaphors.
So, as we watch the leaves of shared values on the tree of American freedom changing color, no longer producing the oxygen necessary for our existence, and falling off, we might want to reframe this as a change in role -- as they could now be insulating the roots of the American experience from the brutal destruction of coming winter.
Then, these values, as they protect the roots of freedom - the foundation of the American experience, are also decomposing…but that breakdown of values doesn’t necessarily mean that the values are gone forever. Their decomposition could mean preparation in transformation in order to provide the nutrients necessary for future life, future freedom, and future society.
Meanwhile, the American way of life is also simultaneously protected by the bark on the tree.
Now, I happen to think that many pests have gotten through. Some disease too. But the bark still remains. This protective layer consists of people who live according to principle instead of passion, who value liberty over equity, who can point out tyranny cleverly disguised as compassion, and who are intentionally passing down their principles and values to the next generation.
A bitter winter is indeed on its way. But the American way of life, the free society, is not dead.
Just like a “hibernating” tree slows its metabolism in order to conserve energy, and the chemical processes for moving the life-giving water around the tree change (and become quite cumbersome, actually**), the freedom our country was once known for might not be dying.
It might just be entering “survival mode.”
Freedom never dies. But it sure can look dead. And while I’ve become exhausted just from the information overload of all the ways it is currently being attacked, perhaps freedom is protecting itself just like I argue it tends to do.
The tree looks dead in winter because in the Fall, it recalibrated all its systems to prevent its actual death.
The tree does not intentionally do this. It was programmed into its DNA.
Today, as I watch the leaves fall, I pray that the DNA of freedom is as intrinsically linked to its survival as that of a deciduous tree and that when winter is over, new growth will sprout from the tree of freedom, feeding on the nutrients of society’s shed and decomposed values in the dirt on the forest floor.
Lovers of liberty, remember you are the bark of the tree. You are the ones holding society together. And to be free, you must live as though you are free. And you are free. So enjoy autumn. Look forward to the snow and the ice on your branches, knowing that should society survive the coming winter, it will come out stronger (and perhaps sweeter) than ever.
**This winterizing chemical change of the tree is what creates a thick and sugary sap – and is the source of maple syrup. So, depending on the character of the tree itself, the dead-looking tree might just be producing a calorie-laden concoction ready to flavor many a future confection.