The Tenacity Of Life

I have often marveled at how tenaciously trees cling to life. Not only are some species of trees the oldest living things on earth but they have an aversion to death that is enviable.

In my back yard in Fort Lauderdale there were two tree stumps just off the back porch. One was simply that. A stump. But on the other, two new branches were growing. The tree refused to succumb.

Here in Panama trees are commonly planted and used for fences. I’m not talking about grown, cut down and put in as posts, but actually planted in rows and then barbed wire, usually, is stapled into the trees.

This photo was shamelessly pirated from my neighbor Mary Farmer’s blog: http://ntsavanna.com/living-fence/ If there’s anything you’d like to know about the flora of the Republic you’ll find it here and what she doesn’t know¬† probably isn’t worth knowing anyway.

Of course some small trees are cut down and used as posts. Like this along the drive leading into the house here in Potrerillos Arriba.

And sometimes sections of 4X4 are mixed in:

A couple of months ago a neighbor gave the house a couple of seedlings. I don’t know what they are, but I found a couple of good spots for them in the northwest corner of the yard. In a phone conversation with the owners of the house shortly afterward they asked if the saplings were doing okay. I said I think you could stick a 2X4 into the ground here and it would grow.

Well, I wasn’t too far off in that assessment. Yesterday evening when I walked down to lock the gate at the end of the drive I spotted this. I don’t know how I missed seeing it before since I pass it at least twice a day. But there was a post that had been hewed from a tree. Top and bottom lopped off and one side planed flat. And yet this piece of wood refused to die. It wouldn’t accept what should have been its inevitable fate. There, standing proud, was a new branch reaching for the sky. A piece of lumber stuck into the ground that took root and continues to cling to life. No, not clinging to life. Thriving.

I don’t know if they grow here in Panama but the leaves remind me of the locust trees that thrived in the sandy soil of Cape Cod where I grew up.

The wood of the locust tree is extremely hard and durable. The house I grew up in was built before the American Revolution.

The small section of the house, an addition, actually, was built sometime in the latter part of the 1700s and was our kitchen. The corners were made of large hand-hewn beams and, since nails were very expensive in those days, the whole thing was tied together with two-inch thick pegs made of locust. That house has withstood countless hurricanes and who knows how many n’or easters in it’s day. And it’s still standing as it approaches nearly two and a half centuries.

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3 Comments

Filed under Living Abroad, panama, Potrerillos Arriba, Retirement Abroad

3 responses to “The Tenacity Of Life

  1. Neat article – I just love those fences. And thanks for the link. And, yes, those macona trees are related to the honey locust – at least they’re in the same family – but the honey locust is native to the eastern US and is not found here (that I know of) here in Panama.

    Best of all, though, was seeing the house where you grew up. Wonderful!

    They don’t build them like that anymore, Mary. No one knows exactly when the house was built, but the floors in the original part of the house were made from the salt works from the nearby beach on Cape Cod Bay that was dismantled around 1770. Each of the boards had a Roman numeral carved into it. They were 18″ to 24″ wide and probably an inch and a half thick. Beautiful, hand hewed things. My dad stripped them clean and sealed them and then a traditional braided rug my mom made sat in the center of the rooms.

    About 5 years ago I was back on the Cape and one of my brothers and I were driving his kids around showing him the town we knew. The current owner of the house was mowing the lawn so we stopped to say hello. They were kind enough to invite us inside. Unfortunately, or stupidly depending on your perspective, they had covered over the pegged beams in the kitchen. What struck me most was how SMALL it was. It was hard to believe that my mom, dad, my four brothers and I all fit in there and shared a single bathroom.

  2. I love the tenacious trees. I do suspect that’s some variety of locust you have. There are several varieties in Texas, and they’re used for fence post from time to time, as is mesquite, although oak seems to be preferred.

    I found this little discussion of their tenacity on a garden web site. I rather enjoyed it and thought you might, too.

    Your house is wonderful. Is that what they call a “salt-box”? It looks like the pictures I found.
    Amazing how small childhood homes seem when we return to them. I went back to my first home in Iowa about 15 years ago, and just couldn’t believe it. I remembered both the house and gardens as huge. But of course, I was far smaller ;-)

    You’re right, that post is a relative of the honey locust according to my neighbor Mary who has the blog about Panama flora http://ntsavanna.com/.

    Your question about my childhood home whether or not it was a saltbox. Short answer is no. But it inspired a new post.

  3. Pingback: Honey Locust and Macano: Legumes, not Varieties | An Accidental Botanist