Thursday, December 20, 2012

The Nuts and Bolts of Trees

Let’s talk about trees. 

Take family trees.  Usually when people think of a family tree, they think of an image of a strong and mighty oak, with lots of roots and branches that spread out wide.  That makes sense, most families are traditional families, consisting of couples that get together and make babies, and those babies couple up with someone else and make more babies.  It’s a grand image of generations of bloodline that shows where a person comes from.

But of course trees are as diverse as families, so let’s stretch this a little farther.  It’s December, Christmas is just around the corner, and Christmas trees are lit up in shopping havens world-wide.  These aren’t the grand oaks, they have no roots to keep them planted.  They aren’t even in their natural habitat or planted in soil to make them grow.  Yet they’re cherished, revered, decorated and embellished.  Entire decorating magazines are devoted to ‘doing up’ your Christmas tree, and there seem to be no limits to materials or creativity. 

The “traditional Christmas tree” is obviously a tradition to be broken.  But are these new, modern trees any less stunning?  Ok, so maybe they don’t bring the warm, fuzzy feeling of the nostalgic past, but to me they still inspire a sense of awe.  And not just because I’m a sucker for anything with sparkly lights.  The innovation and imagination are admirable, making a thing of beauty of something unexpected.  Most of us have a boxed up and packaged definition of what a Christmas tree should be: pine, green, lights, tinsel, garland, ornaments, you know, the whole festive sha-bang.  But then there are those who break out of those pre-defined expectations and create something just as spectacular, and even more so because it’s unconventional.  The point is, people can create their trees to be whatever they want them to be, and no doubt, it’s still a Christmas tree.
Last week for Reed’s birthday, I took a day to myself to celebrate, and wandered around that night at Singapore’s new Gardens By The Bay.  It’s the new botanical gardens, and though I didn’t get to explore much of the grounds, I did see the main attraction, the Supertrees.  Here’s a little tidbit from Wikipedia about them:
Supertrees are tree-like structures that dominate the Gardens' landscape with heights that range between 25 metres (82 ft) and 50 metres (160 ft). They are vertical gardens that perform a multitude of functions, which include planting, shading and working as environmental engines for the gardens.
The Supertrees are home to enclaves of unique and exotic ferns, vines, orchids and also a vast collection of bromeliads such as Tillandsia, amongst other plants. They are fitted with environmental technologies that mimic the ecological function of trees – photovoltaic cells that harness solar energy which can be used for some of the functions of the Supertrees, such as lighting, just like how trees photosynthesize; and collection of rainwater for use in irrigation and fountain displays, exactly like how trees absorb rainwater for growth. The Supertrees also serve air intake and exhaust functions as part of the conservatories' cooling systems.
In short, these ‘trees’ are uh-mazing.  They have totally transformed the iconic skyline of the Singapore bay.  They draw you in; seen from a distance, they make you want to find out more.  If I told you to close your eyes and think of a tree, you would most likely not imagine anything close to these Supertrees, but even the most non-imaginative of spectators will no doubt recognize that they are indeed some kind of trees. 

Do you kind of get an idea of where I’m going with all this?
Since it was Reed’s birthday, as I was walking around these amazing man-made structures, I was thinking of all these things and about what Reed’s family tree looks like.  True, we all have a bloodline that makes up who we are.  But not all trees are ‘natural’, not all trees are those traditional, comforting images of something you would expect.  But life in general is truly what you make of it, which means that we can choose our own building materials and construct something that’s non-conventional, yet still beautiful.  We all choose how we decorate our trees, what we consist of.  We can ornament our lives with light and color and make it something beautiful.  I think I've been able to do that with my own life, and having Reed and the decision to build his family tree the way we have is something that I hope will bring amazement, light and beauty to all of our landscapes.  Reed is my Supertree.  He is the element of my life that people see from afar and think, "What is that?  I've never seen anything like it before, but it's cool."  Of course he is a natural being, but his family has been carefully constructed by our hands.  His family tree is a conglomeration of wood and bark and steel and leaves and nuts and bolts and roots and lights.  
And he is stunning.


  1. Rachel,
    What a wonderful post! A family tree built rather than grown: no less beautiful and even a bit more awe-inspiring.

  2. Just found your blog...very insightful!
    As an adult adoptee, I have to admit that I wish I was just a natural tree, like God made them to be. I have to grieve that loss in order to shine like a supertree, but it is a hard life to live actually. Kind of like asking to be superhuman with a lot of expectations to "shine", kind of like expecting a normal tree to be "super"...not easy.