Contemplating Trees

Today is Arbor Day. I bet a distressingly small number of people are even aware of that. It is a day to plant trees and appreciate those trees that already exist. Today I’m thinking about the forest and our relationship to it.

Many rears ago, I used to vacation in Pisgah National Forest in North Carolina. I’d rent a cabin for two weeks, take my dogs and a whole bunch of books and groceries, and just go. I wouldn’t see another human being the entire time. I’d have no telephone and no television, and this was before the internet, so being on line wasn’t even a concern. I’d sit on the porch and read. I’d take a nap. I’d cook something and eat. But mostly what I’d do is watch the wind in the trees. Pure heaven.

My coworkers thought I was crazy. “Weren’t you scared?” they would say. But to be honest I wasn’t the least bit nervous. Not even for a second. Not even at night. It’s humans that are scary, if you ask me. No tree has ever done me harm. And there were no humans for miles. If a serial killer were persistent enough to find me, let alone kill me, then he would deserve to succeed after all that work. No, I am much more fearful in the big city than I am in the deep forest.

But forests show up in our myths and scary movies for a reason. When you are surrounded by pure nature, as far as the eye can see, you sense life. It’s easy to feel paranoid. Normally we place walls between ourselves and this type of life, so when you make the effort to surround yourself by a thick blanket of it, just you and nature, it can be overpowering.

I don’t look at forests that way. I don’t view them as malevolent. I feel the celebration of life. I see the beauty of creation. I feel embraced and at peace. I feel like I’ve come home.

forest

The woods are lovely, dark, and deep,

But I have promises to keep,

And miles to go before I sleep,

And miles to go before I sleep.

Robert Frost

As an extra treat, I give you this link. It’s a radio interview with David George Haskell, a biologist who spent a year studying just one square meter of old growth forest in Tennessee. He’d go there every single day and just observe. And he has some profound things to say about what he learned. “We find wonder in the world by giving the world our attention, not by running around the world to find the most wonderful place, but to look at our homes, look at the places where we are in a new light, and that light is the light of our focus and concentration. And by doing that, whether it’s in a square meter of forest or a particular trail through an urban neighborhood, or a tree in a park, as we focus in, we see more and more, and the riches unfold in front of us.” It’s a fascinating interview. Check it out.

Happy Arbor Day. Hug a tree, people!

9 thoughts on “Contemplating Trees

  1. I’ve just been to see The Evil Dead, they cast trees in a terrible light! You now make me feel bad for hacking my garden shrubbery to shreds last week. In fairness they had caused my fence to fall down so I had to detangle everything as it was a bit of a hazard. 🙂

    In my part of urban London we should value trees more but the council hack them down all the time. I had a gorgeous one behind my garden wall which would blossom every year, my cat could easily get back into our high walled garden via that tree too, but the council once a year go around and chop the trees across the borough to bits, so they look like something sinister out of a Tim Burton movie. No more blossom this year and I now have to go round the block to retrieve my cat when she can’t get back up!

    1. Next time they’re scheduled to go a-hacking, simply chain your cat to the tree. That should deter them. Joke.
      But seriously, that seems to happen in all urban landscapes. More worried about their sidewalks and their high tension wires than they are about the planet. Pity.

  2. Carole Lewis

    I love trees. I have not always been kind to them. We bought 20 acres in East TN 35 yrs ago. It was old woods. And we fell in love with all of it. We cut the trees, stripped the bark with a drawknife, trying to be true to settlers past. We did all the work, and provided a good home for three teenagers. The first little home was 20 x 20 and made out of firewood.mortered on each end. It served us well, while we brought up huge trees from the back 10 acres to dry and season until we could build the Big House. It took 10 years to finally get our Log Cabin Home finished and to move in, with our fourth child. We swore we would be gentle to our habitat in the future and except for the most beautiful of Christmas Trees each year and the removal of several trees to build our Catfish and Blue Gill stocked pond, we have honored that pledge. In return, our magical piece of forest has provided us food, shelter, shade and so many wonderful memories. Not one tree or limb has fallen on our true Log Home. I go fishing at the pond every morning and evening and gaze at all the trees surrounding our happy home, and think job well done. We have taken only what we needed from this beautiful place and benefited tenfold. I love our trees and they love us back.

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