Are you deciduous or evergreen?

Trying to work out whether you shed or stay? Leaf it to Miriam Margoram.

Miriam Margoram

There are only two possibilitreesComposite: Shraddha Rathi

Soul-searchers, spirit-swimmers, as you hole yourselves up indoors in anticipation of the gustiest days of the intellectual hurricane season, I would like to take you back out to nature. This week we open up our perspective to look at seasonal time frames and natural life cycles. We think about green things, growth, and what it takes to start strong when all your leaves have deserted you and the thought of being cut down as lumber for a coffee table starts to look more and more attractive.

You’re either deciduous or evergreen. Although, truth be told these categories are slightly misleading. Most living things are deciduous – trees, deer, even babies – because most things have parts they ‘shed off at maturity’, be it leaves, antlers or teeth. The question is whether this shedding happens all at once or all year round. Does your new-self happen slowly, masked through time by a constantly leafy veneer of stable identity? Or do you find yourself with bare branches to the biting cold before you can take on another form?

Let’s be real: nobody wants a militant-atheist Radiohead fan with an addiction to Jelly-Belly jelly beans at their party

A tell-tale sign of evergreen-ness is a tendency to hoard. You still own your GCSE annotated copy of Romeo and Juliet, you have all your A-Level Physics notes on a hard-drive somewhere, and filed away in a semi-accessible crevice of your home you definitely still have the recorder sheet music to hot-cross buns. You do this because you’re convinced that someday, somewhere, you might need these things. Hopefully you’ll need them for some very important project that’s part of your wildly broad horizons, and then you’ll be glad you safely stowed away your Year Nine project on motte-and-bailey vs. stone-keep medieval castles. What this reluctance to throw-away indicates is a faith in the gradually accretive nature of your personality, goals and values. While you envisage much change for yourself, the time for that radical reboot is never now, (or never now-enough for you to burn up all the work you’ve put so far). You lose old leaves and gain new ones without display; all the rest of the forest sees is one growing, steady, green cedar.

Alternatively, you might find yourself drawn to a more butterfly-cocoon model of identity formation. You smothered the screaming passions of your high-school years the day after graduation. And thank god you did because, however accepting the people you hang out with now are, let’s be real, nobody wants a militant-atheist Radiohead fan with an addiction to Jelly-Belly jelly beans at their party. Your biggest fear is that after graduation you will cave, pull another radical metamorphosis, and corrupt your Facebook name to ‘maggie haha imsocool’ so that you don’t have to deal with them asking about your wavy-garm-megaphone-protest pictures in your initiation interview to the Cult of the City. Although, you live in the comfort that if you did do that, you would be able to insta-sell your bike and whole wardrobe fairly painlessly to barely pay for a week’s rent and one G&T in case you meet someone your age that you like enough to go on a date with.

Bike for sale. Priced at (1) Gin and Tonic, but open to negotiations.

If you are a deciduous type, exam periods and tests that seem to mark milestones in the year (or, in your more frenetic moods, in life) might leave you feeling gaunt, low and parched of inspiration. Part of the dangers of surviving life’s changing season by shedding all the old leaves is that it leaves you exposed, it warps the parts of you – your xylem vessels, your bark, your roots – all the parts that have to stay put. Some plants like Forsythia grow flowers when they shed their leaves. You could squeeze your eyes shut and try this, you might surprise yourself. In fact, those surprise flowers of will-power might be what the winter season is here for, if not what good may come of it.


Mountain View

Musings on new friendship, Mill Road and a case of mistaken identity

Alternately, the evergreens of you out there might be frustrated that no momentous overhaul of appearance and identity is available to you when you think you need it most. Trust that you have grown over the years gone by, and believe that you will continue to do so in the future. Enjoy the privilege of never having your growing pains exposed to the prying opinions of the world and cherish the ability of your calming presence to scatter soft pine needles around you for those who need it most to rest their heads.

Whichever king of tree-thing you turn out to be, keep your roots firmly in the ground, stay hydrated, and keep breathing.