Can’t see the tree for the forest

When people preoccupy themselves with minutia instead of thinking “big picture,” the popular saying goes: “They can’t see the forest for the trees.” Upon hearing it, worried people step back, let go of insignificant concerns and observe situations from a broader perspective. That’s a good thing.

Sometimes, we need to flip that saying on its head: “They don’t see the tree for the forest.”

ancient-treeLast weekend I walked in Gilles Grove near Arnprior, ON, and I came upon a bright spot in the forest. The sight of one mighty ancient white pine all by itself in the middle of tiny saplings struck me. There were no other trees even close to its age and size nearby. The picture cannot give you perspective on just how mighty and ancient this tree was. When I attempted to wrap my arms around it (yes, I hugged the tree) they would not even reach half way.

This tree is hundreds of years old.

I imagined our First Nations people brushing up against it as a they moved through the forest centuries ago. I thanked the powers that be for sparing it from the blades of the lumber barons who logged the area beside the Ottawa River, felling the much-favoured white pines by the hundreds.

I spent some time appreciating this one tree, and I thought, “How often do people really notice, think about and appreciate one tree when they walk in a forest?” Usually we stride by them. They pass in a blur.

Sometimes we don’t see the tree for the forest.

It’s a reminder to take time to stop in the forest of our lives and really examine closely one extraordinary thing around us that we might otherwise stride by mindlessly.

It’s an enriching way to spend some time, even if your arms don’t reach.


About Arlene Somerton Smith

Writer, laughing thinker, miner of inspirational insights, sports fan, and community volunteer

Posted on September 18, 2015, in Arlene Smith, Arlene Somerton Smith, How do you define success?, Inspiration, life, Living life to the fullest and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. As always, your words strike me as being true.
    I love your perspective and always look forward to your posts.

  2. A good thought to keep in mind, not only in life, but in writing. I think everyone should hug a tree now and then, if for no other reason than to breathe in the scent.

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