Saturday, October 18, 2008


Humans have always had a special relationship with trees. Trees are, after all, our ancient ancestral home, and even today, after several million years of adaptation to walking on the ground, we can scurry up a tree faster than you can say, “Look at the juicy ripe peach at the end of that branch!”

Most people like trees. It’s the rare house that doesn’t have a tree planted in the yard. Many people commune with trees. Others worship them. Oaks are sacred to the Druids. Visiting the California redwoods can be a religious experience. The first time I saw a redwood, I cried.

Trees talk. Their leaves chatter and murmur together. The wind blows through their branches and they sing or sigh or moan.

But even when trees are quiet, they give off air. Stand under a tree and you can smell the air. Pine air smells different than oak air, which smells different from willow air. We can never get enough of this air. Without it, we would die.

Trees are punctuation marks upon the horizon. Lombardy poplars and Italian cypress are the exclamation points. Fat round junipers are the periods. Once I saw a gnarled old hackberry tree that looked like a question mark, but I could never figure out what the question was.

Trees are colorful. Red leaves in the fall, black branches during the winter, the lightest of greens in the spring. Cottonwood and aspen leaves shimmer and flash silver as they tremble and dance in the wind.

Trees feed us. Apples, walnuts, pecans, mangoes, peaches, cherries, this list can fill a page. Trees also feed our souls. Trees are much older than we are, and have much to teach us if we would but listen.

Too many people have developed a pathological relationship with trees. This is too bad. People chainsaw them, bulldoze them, chop them with axes, slash them and burn them. But the trees are very patient. They will grow back in time, and will still be willing to teach us if we survive that long.

There are people who want to save the trees. They chain themselves to trees, write songs and poems about trees, and plant trees by the millions. We can never have too many trees, or too many people planting trees. Planting trees is a holy task, and is perhaps the most important thing a human being is capable of.


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