|Relating to Trees
What is it about trees? Most people, I think, feel a certain fondness toward them. The forest evokes reverence but even one by one, we feel something. Cool shade ... bloom and fruit ... usefulness as boundary markers ... the beauty of their distinctive form ...the size and age they sometimes attain ... but I think there's more than all that.
It's a subject for poets. Joyce Kilmer's "Trees", which ends "Only God can make a tree," expresses it one way. In "From Below" Denise Levertov talks about looking "up and up: to wonder/about what rises so far above me into the light."
Trees always seem such solid citizens of the world: steady, calm and enduring while we transient human beings bustle about our lives beneath them. So well balanced, with their roots firmly in the ground and their branches reaching for the sky. They stay put, they have a good long lifespan: they feel dependable. The trees native to our locale contribute greatly to our sense of place, they are companions.
The great forests of the world have been called "the lungs of the Earth" because they're so necessary for production of the oxygen our life depends on. Sometimes I wonder if one reason I feel happy under a tree, is oxygen.
Often we humans take for granted these lungs, and other contributions trees make to the ecology of the planet. Some people care so passionately, that to stop reckless logging and clearcutting, they tie themselves to trees in the face of bulldozers. Nevertheless much land has been destroyed from the removal of forests, with topsoil washing away and polluting the water supply; sources of indigenous food and medicine wiped out.
In Thailand, from ancient times people have occasionally ordained trees, to show their love and respect. The trunk is wrapped with the saffron robe of a Buddhist monk; the tree is considered a monk, a special being. More recently, human monks there have used the practice to draw attention to environmental problems, raise people's awareness about our interdependence with nature, and inspire participation in conservation. People like having a way to express in action their feelings about trees.
In our less mystical culture, we plant trees to celebrate Arbor Day (the last Friday in April). Then there's my friend who says when you're feeling insecure, hug a tree. "They're much more grounded than people. But always ask the tree's permission first."
© Copyright 2004 Catherine Holmes Clark