By Melissa Martin –
A few years ago, our hundred-year-old tree was cut down for safety reasons. A piece of history, once living—now dead. Now its twin tree is diseased (age and carpenter arts) and just about ready to end and begin the circle of life; like the song in the Lion King movie. A sense of sadness envelops me as the old makes way for the new.
My grandmother, who loved nature and trees, used to opine, “Oh, if only this tree could talk. What a story it would tell.” She brought a sapling from her birthplace in the hills of Kentucky and planted it in Ohio.
What is it about trees? Christmas trees are adorned every December; a sacred tradition. Oak trees, Maple trees, Birch trees, Palm trees, Coconut trees, Japanese Maples. Trees are a gift from the Creator. Therefore, trees have purpose.
The Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Forestry has an index of common Ohio trees. Dogwood, Redbud, Willow. Pawpaw, Cherry, Plum. Hickory, Chestnut, Walnut. www.forestry.ohiodnr.gov/trees.
Ohio’s state tree is the Ohio Buckeye with palmate leaves, yellow flowers, and brown buckeye nuts. And of course, the Ohio State Buckeyes football team—that’s how much we like trees. Go Bucks!
“While trees provide many well-known ecological benefits, the importance of trees as a source of food for bees is sometimes overlooked. Ohio trees can provide food for bees from early spring through late summer, with most tree species in Ohio blooming in spring and early summer.” www.ohioline.osu.edu/.
Trees give us cradles and caskets; shelter and furniture; fruits and nuts. Trees give us shade and protection from the wind. Trees are homes to birds, squirrels, and other animals as well as insects. A forest is its own city. Hustling and bustling. Giving and taking. Living and dying.
Trees use a process called photosynthesis to convert carbon dioxide to oxygen. Trees stabilize soil. Tree leafs’ die, decay, and mulch the ground. What would Earth do without trees?
Streets, parks, playgrounds and backyards are lined with different types of trees for environmental pleasure. Picnics with a blanket and a basket occur under trees. National Arbor Day is an annual event in April. We celebrate trees. www.arborday.org/.
But, like the Yin and Yang principle, when lightning strikes a tree, results can be human death, animal death, and destruction of property. According to National Geographic, “Uncontrolled blazes fueled by weather, wind, and dry underbrush, wildfires can burn acres of land—and consume everything in their paths—in mere minutes…On average, more than 100,000 wildfires, also called wildland fires or forest fires, clear 4 million to 5 million acres (1.6 million to 2 million hectares) of land in the U.S. every year.” www.nationalgeographic.com/.
I’m reminded of the children’s book, “The Giving Tree”, by Shel Silverstein, a 55-year-old tale; originally published in 1964 by HarperCollins. I experience a rush of nostalgia along with sorrow whenever I revisit the story. It’s also surreal that trees die to make pages of books. The boy in the story ages and is peering into the eye’s of death at the ending. Silverstein died in 1999, but his book remains in libraries.
I’ll plant another tree in the same place when the beloved gnarly tree is cut down. And the circle of life will continue.
“I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.”
—From “Trees” by Joyce Kilmer.
Melissa Martin, Ph.D, is an author, columnist, educator, and therapist. She resides in Southern Ohio.