Our neighbors the trees....
The conference’s theme, he noted pointedly, is “How Trees Create Community.”
I shot that question back to Greg, who is known for his work restoring area streams—in large measure by planting trees.
“Significant large trees define all of our neighborhoods,” he wrote. “When a child grows up, a special neighborhood tree connotes a walk to school, play in the park, gathering in a safe haven with pals, or pinning up signs for a lemonade stand or garage sale.”
The largest of trees are landmarks for the entire neighborhood. Greg noted that the shade of trees gains significance “in an age of global warming.” Of course trees also aid the humanity by consuming the carbon dioxide we so massively generate and by pumping oxygen into the atmosphere.
After our exchange, I saw our neighborhood and its trees differently. I imagined Hillsdale denuded of trees—the way a hillside looks after a clear cut. I fear that blight, insects, landslides, poison or even human weapons could make my terrible imagining reality.
We take our trees for granted. Worse, we act in ways that endanger them. Just thinking of trees, and valuing them for their beauty and utility, broadens our sense of community. We humans are merely one group in a community of life. We ignore our shared place at our peril.
One final thought: Trees, our oldest life forms, bind us across time. In our own Hillsdale, one tree in particular spans no fewer than seven generations. The ancient oak on 29th Place sprang from its acorn origins before the signing of the U.S. Constitution. In relatively recent times, it has been lovingly cared for by its admiring human neighbors. Witness the cables that support its massive branches. Note the plaque marking its “heritage” tree status.
I’m not into worshiping trees, but I confess a reverence for this giant oak. When I meet newcomers to Hillsdale, I always acquaint them with this our most “senior citizen,” oldest neighbor and enduring friend.