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Sunday, September 23, 2012

How Can One Say What A Tree Means To Us?

When I began to plant trees, I didn’t have any idea how much they would eventually change my life. I didn’t know that trees themselves can inform your understanding of the world around you or that eventually I would “speak” for them. The first that I remember planting was a blue spruce that transformed itself from a tiny sprig, like many of us got as students on Arbor Day, to eventually dwarf the house. Since that time, I have come to know thousands of tiny sprigs. More often than not they do the same as that first tree, changing vacant land into habitat, creating from dirt, sun, water and the very air itself, a structure that supports creatures big and small. Trees are essentially the high rise apartments of the natural world. The change in me, that the trees I have planted have wrought, are greater than words can express, but I will nonetheless try.
Learning the scents of so many trees and the changes that they go through around the wheel of the seasons has given my blood vitality that comes only from being in the presence of basswood flowers in early Spring, elder blossoms in Midsummer, birch must in the Fall and the antiseptic smells of cedar swamps in the dead of Winter. Without these sublime essences, my life would be much more cold and hostile. The richness of memory and understanding that comes from learning the stories, held in the very wind itself has enriched my knowing of not only where I am, but who I am as well. When my breath can be absorbed and put to use by these sentinels of hope, I am given heart to continue to do my best in the face of adversity. Each and every tree has a story to tell if we can only learn how to listen.
I have been amazed at the myriad shapes, sizes and structural elements, not only within a single species of tree, amongst individuals, each confronting their own environment, but amongst the many different species as well. I love my insight into biomes and my budding understanding of why certain species like to congregate together, depending on light, soils, terrain and moisture content in the soil.
Appealing as well are the creaks and moans that issue from a tree when it is buffeted by the winds of approaching storms or the ebullient rustle of the willow in the slightest breeze. The respite one gets from the first squalls of rain and the noise that the canopy makes while being pelted during a cloudburst on a hot summer day, even  the drops that fall at random moments after the rain is done and gone all have stories to tell us, if we listen.
Tony C. Saladino Director-ECO-Tours of Wisconsin Inc.

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