ECO-Tours only purchases trees and dirt to plant them in...

Friday, May 25, 2012

Tree Prejudice

I ran into two ladies this week who seemed normal in every way. We were talking about issues of prosperity and how we might judge our own wealth and abundance. We spoke of taking time to be playful and to some extent, how our dreams and reality are part of our wealth and lives. When I told them of my own curiosity, my desire to know just what 100,000 maple tree seeds looks like, as well as my urge to plant them, rather than being glad for my own happiness, they instantly questioned, "What kind of maples?" What they did and said next made me realize that there are tree bigots everywhere and their judgements often stifle their enjoyment of the world around them. They both sat more rigidly upright and their eyes widened. When I told them that most of the tree seeds were red maple, they were okay with that, but when the words, "some silver maples too", came next. It looked as if I was in big trouble. "No!" they exclaimed, not silver maples! One woman called them "weed trees", useless and not to be planted. as anyone might, I asked, "Why?" Supposedly, they said, the way they fork makes them weak and prone to splitting or losing branches. Well, you and I both know that this sort of prejudice is not only short sighted, but just plain wrong. If nature ever made a survivor, it would have to be the silver maple. Aside from regular periodic burning, or regular mowing, there really is no way to keep this plant at bay.

My grandmother had a silver maple in her yard in Springfield, Illinois for as long as I can remember. On her deathbed, for some reason, she wanted it trimmed. Grandpa, always the miser got the cheapest fellow he could find to cut that tree, never wanting to have to do it again, he told him to take everything but the trunk down. It was sinful, what that man did to The Maple. Other than three or four branches with tiny tufts near the top, it looked much like a Q-tip. The wounds all wept that year, just as the rest of the family did. However, when I came back for my grandfather's funeral a dozen years later, unless you knew where to look, you might never have noticed the fateful pruning incident. There stood an even more massive testament to the power and tenacity of nature. The glorious shade had returned and the rustling of the leaves in the wind that I had heard since childhood soothed my very soul. The part of me that loved to climb that tree, the boy inside me that remembered grandma's dog, buried in the shade under that tree, the young adult who never saw a single branch snap from the massive trunk, even in the strongest winds, cannot fathom why anyone would hold a grudge against the entire species!

I cannot say for certain what led these ladies to take such a rigid stand against the silver maple, but for my part I just said, "Rabbits need some branches to fall, for cover."
To which one woman replied, "If you think rabbits need help, come out by me, Luxemburg has plenty of rabbits!"
Perhaps she was speaking with authority, I don't know, but my guess is that they dine a little to frequently on the trees and bushes, perhaps even the flowers that this woman deems more important than the silver maple. In any case, I'm sure that she has not consulted the rabbits about their numbers and certainly has not taken the time to play in the shade under a silver maple during the hottest part of the day. she probably has never created a microcosmic world, nestled into the roots and sod clumps around the base of a massive silver maple. She may even have heard what she knows about them from a reputable nurseryman, but as I explained, the places I plant are not meant to be manicured lawns anyway. Any tree is better than no tree, especially native trees that have the power to reforest the landscape long after I have shirked this mortal coil. I would be planting sugar maples in the hopes of creating a grove some day, but the sugar maples that I have planted are not producing seeds yet.

Whatever caused these women to take such a harsh stance against a specific type of tree may forever remain shrouded in mystery. I can't help but think that somewhere along their path, they decided that their ideas of beauty, functionality and our relationship with Mother Earth should be that of dominance and submission rather than the give and take that has grown to stand in the forest of my ideas about such things. It certainly brought into sharp focus for me, the tragic cost of hatred and misunderstanding. I feel a bit sad that i neglected to ask about what trees they would rather I plant, but as it happened, we didn't spend much time on the subject of tree planting. We both had "more important" things to do. The more I think about the conversation, the more I want to plant more trees. I'm not as picky as some and I would rather plant the "wrong" tree somewhere and begin a process of building a forest for the future than remain stifled, waiting for the right tree to shed seeds into my lap. I'm not a fan of the horse chestnut, but if someone would choose to plant one, I wouldn't fly into a tizzy. I have cleaned up their seeds and prickly hulls for five decades, but in spite of not liking the extra work that they create for people living under them, I enjoy the smell of their flowers, I admire their ability to find their way into my garden, along my foundation and even into the flower beds that resist invasion by nearly everything else. One really has to admire the ability of a tree to use squirrels to help it procreate.

We all have our foibles and quirks. Why should trees be any different? I'm not really sure why, but I am driven to plant trees. Of course I select for what will have the best chance of growing at each site that I work to reforest. Other than that, I try not to place my own limitations on the process. each of the 100,000 maple seeds that I planted received my blessing and best wishes on it's journey. Even the swirling spirals that they took to their new homes were amazing to me. In their dispersal, they taught me a little bit more about fluid dynamics, energy capture and finding peace amongst competing forces that surround us all the time. Perhaps, they even taught me how to deal with prejudice with a bit of grace.

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