Learning Peace Through the Redwoods

Joanne Caniglia
Blog by Sr. Joanne Caniglia, OP

Blessed is the one that trusts in the Lord…. They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes, its leaves are always green. It has not worries, in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.
– Jeremiah 17:7-8

Most of us know that the giant redwood trees grow on the West Coast of the United States and nowhere else in the world. The size and strength of redwoods are stunning. They are giants, standing so close that their branches seem to form a filter from the sun.

Some trees measure more than 300 feet and have been alive more than 1,400 years. So what is the secret of the redwoods’ longevity? Unlike other trees whose tap-root goes down as far as it is above the ground, the redwood has no taproot at all. But that is the reason that the redwood never stands alone. Never. They are often found in “clusters.” Sometimes called groves. The might of the tree is not in itself. Here is its strength…for every foot in height it grows up, the redwood tree sends its roots, not down, but three times that distance…OUTWARD while intertwining with all the roots from the other redwoods in the grove. After a hundred or more years the roots are so woven with one another, there is no way a tree could fall. It is held up by the other trees.

As we begin a new year of mercy and peace, we need to remember the redwoods. As the interweaving of roots sustains the magnificence of the redwoods, so too it is with our relationships with others that make us stronger in our peace efforts. Cardinal Turkson so beautifully identified relationships as critical to peacemaking. “When we live in a manner that respects the demands of relationships, we are just, and we act with justice.”

He says:

“Peace is directly related to the quality of personal and communal relationships. To build a more peaceful world, we need just relationships at the personal level, between individuals, communities and nations, with creation, and ultimately with God. All of us contribute to a more just and less violent society by cultivating right and just relations at every level of our lives. If we are not actively contributing to the solution, then we are surely part of the problem. The question is simple: are we moving towards more just relations or in the opposite direction?” (Building-Blocks for a More Just and Peaceful Society Rio de Janeiro, 1 September 2015)

So let us learn from the redwoods, that the secret to their strength is that their roots intertwine with other redwoods to create an underground network of powerful relationships. Alone, they would not stand for long. For when we nurture relationships we grow – as you build up others in your network, you will see growth. This is the magic of the redwood trees and peacemaking.

Posted in Just Reflecting

7 responses to “Learning Peace Through the Redwoods

  1. With our new congregation hopefully my roots are far reaching — outward. Thank you for the lesson about the Redwoods.

  2. Hi Joanne — thanks so much — if I had heard that about the redwoods I had forgotten it. Wonderful to be reminded of what we can learn from “lower” forms of life. Rosie

  3. Thank you so much this. All the years I lived in Ca. and visited the Redwoods I never heard this.

    Thank you, the symbolism of the Redwoods is so thought provoking.


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