How can pine needles help you persist?

Every morning walk I let one particular thing be noticed. This morning it was pine needles.

I live in an area full of white pine. Our property is mostly white pine and red oak. I enjoy the white pines – to me the softest and brightest of the pines – and their soft needles that shine in the sunlight. But I also see them with a woodcutters eye – no good for the wood stove, too much resin. And after the initial beauty of the needles falling in the air on windy October days, I often view the needles with vague annoyance – something else to be raked.

I’ve often noticed that if you don’t appreciate or notice something enough, you’d probably be helped by getting closer. Pine needles are no exception. Everywhere I looked down – a rich brown mat, intertwining and layering on the ground. Their color now is such a different one than the living green and in many ways no less beautiful. Each bundle a grouping of five needles. They fall attached together, and stay attached on the ground, held together still. Everywhere as far as the eye can see – five, five, five….A field of fives.

Unlike the deciduous trees that grow their leaves and release them in one year, pine needles let go after three to five years on the tree. Three to five years, that’s their rhythm. Imagine if the forest had stockholders. “The maples are producing well, but these white pines! They’re poor performers. We need to shake things up there, and get product up.”

Thankfully, the trees have no shareholders, and wouldn’t care if they did. They have a rhythm they trust. And the white pine releases its needles in a rhythm it trusts. Once a bundle of needles has lived on the tree for three years, it is ready to fall. The group of five needles grows up together and lets go together. They aren’t seeds – they won’t directly grow new pine trees. But on the ground they will probably block out competing plants, go back to the soil, and feed either the same tree again or one of its off-spring growing nearby.

I’d like to take the white pine needle’s persistence in living its own rhythm as inspiration for today. May I trust that all the important work I want to do with my life – the books I have yet to write, the music yet to play and record, the people I want to touch with my work – has its own rhythm, its own cycle of completion.

What in your life is important, but not yet come to fruition? Perhaps you too can apprentice with the persistence the needles of the white pine show and let the true rhythm of your work guide your day.

This post is part of a series on using persistence to create lasting personal change for the better. Forty Days to a Change for Good is part of Quixote Consulting’s Change Quest change management training and Resiliency: Five Keys to Success training. Research shows it takes at least 30 days to make a positive change in your life that lasts. This post is part of a series by Rob Fletcher that examines what makes change initiatives work, what makes them fail, and how daily rituals support positive changes you want to make.

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  1. Laura
    Posted November 30, 2010 at 8:53 am | Permalink

    Another great post! It seems to me that your walk was a real moment where sensing met intuition – really noticing the pine needles (I love the “field of fives”) and then connecting it to a larger picture. Wonderful!

  2. Posted November 30, 2010 at 3:49 pm | Permalink

    Thanks! That’s a great observation – sensing meeting intuition.

    For that to really work on a short walk I need to go very slowly without an agenda, ready to receive. It’s helpful to notice that that’s how it most easily can happen.