A Lesson on Discernment from My Pine Tree

A Lesson on Discernment from My Pine Tree

This week’s inspiration comes from my yard and a new appreciation I have for one very tall pine tree.

In the late fall of last year, I thought this beautiful tree was dying. I’d just finished removing a beloved red sugar maple and dogwood, both victims of last year’s harsh winter, when I discovered a large pile of pine needles under this tower of a tree. Its mass of green had become riddled with an alarming brown.

When I asked a professional about it, he told me that it was a normal part of its growth process. Although the pine tree is considered an evergreen, its needles do not stay alive and green. It sheds the needles it no longer needs.

Sure enough, this week I noticed the brown needles are gone. Only the luscious green greeted me, fortified and ready to endure whatever the groundhog predicts for the next six weeks.

How envious I was of the tree! How did it know exactly what to shed? What needles to hang on to? Which ones to discard?

I wish life could be that simple for me.

As anyone who has ever dared visit me in my office knows, I tend to hang on to things too long, whether in lovely floral file folders resting patiently on my desk or in the colorful baskets, bins, binders that are artfully tucked in, on, and under my desk.

Or as my friend’s wise husband once gently remarked a few years ago about his wife’s similarly “arranged” office, “It’s not her fault, really. She just has so many interests!”

I loved that. Still do. I am not messy; I just have many interests. I don’t have stacks of clutter. I have files, piles, and binders of interests!

Still, wouldn’t it be nice if I could figure out how to be like my pine tree and simply shed what I no longer need?

Michael Kuhns, Extension Forestry Specialist, explains the process in more detail, offering some insight.

As needles age, they become less efficient at producing food for the tree. They also become more shaded by newer needles. For these reasons, old needles finally turn brown and drop off.


The tree sheds what no longer nourishes it, what may have been shaded by newer growth.

Perhaps that’s a new way to discern what to keep and what to let go. Does a project, activity, cause, or hobby still nourish me?

Or has it been overshadowed by another growing interest?

If so, it may be time to shed it.

How about you? Do you have trouble figuring out what to keep and what to let go? How do you decide? Tell me about it. I’d love to know.

My best–always,

Becky  (Nana B)

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