The ground is super-saturated with water right now—with more rain on the way—and unfortunately it is not unusual to see a tree uprooted and fallen in a yard or across a roadway.

I am always saddened by this. Trees are so vital to our communities. As they grow and put roots down into the soil, they soak up and clean the water in the soil and send it back into the atmosphere. They filter carbon dioxide out of the air and create much of the oxygen we breathe. They provide shade and help regulate the temperatures in our communities. They generate fruit that graces our fall tables and are hubs for biodiversity, providing homes for the birds and wildlife—including those pesky squirrels. They are beautiful, and they change the way the world looks and works.

When a tree falls or dies, something is lost that takes decades to replace. Conservation and planting efforts seek to guarantee that trees will always be a part of our future, and it is important that we increase the awareness of the role of trees in healthy communities.

Walk through a forest and you’ll quickly realize how dynamic and alive it is. Trees that have fallen continue to contribute to the life of the forest; it has been said that the first half of a tree’s life is standing as part of the canopy, and the second half is nurturing new life on the earthy floor of the forest.

Trees grow slow and steady, never wavering from their single focus. They withstand the wind and rain of storms, and can often survive the loss of branches and limbs. The leaves they will be dropping on our lawns over the next few weeks will be replaced in the spring by new ones, green and bright.

What can we learn from trees—in our own lives, and in healthcare as well? What do they teach us about being rooted and productive? How do they illustrate inter-dependent systems and diversity? How do they respond to adversity? How do they heal themselves and foster healing?  Why do we immediately sense order and beauty from a giant old tree, and why are we saddened when a great tree falls? Why is planting a new tree so life-affirming—and so important?

Autumn is coming; the trees have captured our attention once again. What are they teaching us?