Nature Meditation #6 – Robert Frost, “On a Tree Fallen Across the Road”

“The tree the tempest with a crash of wood
Throws down in front of us is not to bar
Our passage to our journey’s end for good,
But just to ask us who we think we are
Insisting always on our own way so.”


Robert Frost, from “On a Tree Fallen Across the Road”

In this short poem, Frost personifies a tree, and in doing so, personifies nature. This poem is one of those doorways to thought. What did Frost mean? And what does this poem mean to me?

Frost is touching on the very nature of humans and nature. There is great conflict between us. There is constant competition – humans seeking to overcome, and nature ALWAYS prevailing in the end.

Nature was here first. The Earth IS nature. To win over nature, altering it for the benefit of humans, will most likely, in the long run, result in the end of Life as we know it. We understand so little of the big picture.

Humans have a big brain. We think that we humans have an edge on all other beings that share Earth with us. We can build fantastic homes, providing shelter in any climate. We can supply ourselves with food and nutrients, but not without the basic ingredients provided by nature. We can find water, but again, not without the basic ingredients provided by nature.

And then there’s the weather. Scientific advances allow us to follow the high and low pressure areas, to predict when moisture meets air currents to create rain or snow, when warm ocean currents will cause air currents to move farther north or south over the land masses.In some cases, we can make it rain.

But we can’t predict earthquakes or tornados or tsunamis or volacanic eruptions. We can study the indicators, and point out changes that may mean such an event will happen soon. But we can’t control any of these things.

Frost also implies in this poem that the tree falls just to thwart humans, delaying our ‘journey.’ Intentionally keeping us from moving forward.

I don’t agree. Nature just ‘is’ as it has always been. The basic system of the earth, its composition, systems of air and water circulation, rhythmic patterns of time, battles of fire and ice, wind and water, have always been and always will be. If there is competition, it is only in the human mind. It is only driven by the human ‘need’ to control.

I wonder if we can ever get over that need? Do we all struggle with that our entire lives, trying to control everything around us, even Nature? 

Not all struggles are bad. But my point is, struggling against Nature – to change nature – is pointless. We would all be better off to try to live within the very structured, very systematic existence that Nature controls. We would be better off trying to understand it, rather than overcome it. We need to work within nature’s parameters, not try to alter them.

Do you agree? I’d like to hear your comments, and to see if you enjoyed this post, and the questions I’ve posed. Below is a survey. Take a minute and respond. 

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