Last week, what a week.
Ever since the Boston Marathon bombing, I’ve been thinking about this blog, and evaluating — why do I give so much of my attention to trees? How does it help me to make meaning in this world where there is pain and suffering, senseless violence and confusion? Is it relevant at all?
Trees provide essential ecological function and necessary habitat for wildlife. Other direct benefits to us are too numerous to list, but include air quality and storm water runoff filtering as well as shade.
Even though I have a background in natural science, the intangible benefits — ones that can’t be quantified — are the ones that consume my thoughts. Trees provide a link to history, a time and place we can only imagine but which trees themselves have witnessed. They humble us, but also shelter us. Trees represent growth, renewal, and thus remind us to have hope. It’s the exquisiteness of form and color, movement of air through outstretched branches that remind me (like the Bach piano sonata I heard yesterday that brought tears) there is so much beauty in this world mixed in and around pain and fear. What is this beauty good for? I believe it inspires us to love and do our best in whatever way we can for one another.
When I Am Among the Trees
by Mary Oliver, from Thirst (Beacon Press)
When I am among the trees,
especially the willows and the honey locust,
equally the beech, the oaks and the pines,
they give off such hints of gladness.
I would almost say that they save me, and daily.
I am so distant from the hope of myself,
in which I have goodness, and discernment,
and never hurry through the world
but walk slowly, and bow often.
Around me the trees stir in their leaves
and call out, “Stay awhile.”
The light flows from their branches.
And they call again, “It’s simple,” they say,
“and you too have come
into the world to do this, to go easy, to be filled
with light, and to shine.”
photo by Kimie Fukuda, used with permission