Outside my kitchen window stands a majestic old oak, its thick trunk draped with flowing ripples of coarse bark, arranged into soft folds like pleats in a velvet ballgown, its gracefully downward curving lower branches heavy with the memory of fat squirrels and nimble schoolchildren, its topmost branches elegantly reaching for the warm sun, its gnarled and outstretched roots absorbing minerals and water from Georgia's red clay surface. Its canopy glistens with myriad-hued emerald leaves, which at this moment are busily photosynthesizing sugar from absorbed sunlight, water, and carbon dioxide, breathing out a collective sigh of life-giving oxygen as they nourish the hungry tree. Beneath the canopy lies cool shade. Within its stately branches, the birds and squirrels who tease my dogs and scamper across my metal roof in the wee hours of morning find ample housing and shelter. The massive tangle of roots stabilizes both tree and soil. Seemingly obedient to the force of gravity, the roots pull downward into the ground, while the rest of the tree pushes itself up from its branch tips, the result of context sensitivity to hormones controlling cell expansion. The tree branches and buds with new leaves, creating more surface area for absorption while providing shade and breaking the impact of rain droplets on the earth below. In autumn, these leaves will die, their life cycle complete. Like fallen jewels, they'll blanket the ground in a spectacular riot of color and decomposition, offering a sweet feast to the multitudes of bacteria and fungi that inhabit the soil, laboring to return elemental carbon from this leafy detritus back into the atmosphere. This tree shapes itself, feeds itself, grows itself: it exists in complete harmony with itself and its surroundings. It bends with the light and under the weight of its own branches. It sequesters what's dead, what's no longer useful, conserving its energy to sustain life from within, and in doing so, it gives life without. How does this tree know how to tree? Its full mystery is impossible to comprehend. It just goes with the flow.