I have grieved for trees.
A star magnolia sacrificed to a landlord’s ire.
A magnificent oak lost to a developer’s greed.
A blueberry bush we left behind.
A new white lilac bulldozed.
When I was a child I walked between the trees and felt sheltered. In quiet forests I moved freely, quietly, (and mostly unsupervised!) trying not to disturb the creatures seen and unseen, hoping for a glimpse of a white tail, a fairy’s wing. I was not afraid.
This is not nostalgia, nor a paean to world long gone. If you look you can find trees standing quiet sentinel, certainly and with relative ease if you are able to leave the city, and even if you cannot. In our urban cityscapes there are parks, protected places, quiet lots with trees that have endured for a hundred years.
We have, all of us, by necessity and through regrettable experience, taught our children fear in those dappled places. There was a huge rhododendron bush in the park near our house. Underneath the thick snaking branches and sturdy leathery leaves there was a cave made of green and earth. A natural and perfectly-sized place for toddlers to play. We found a used needle there once, and spent condoms, and detritus from someone’s night or nights spent living rough. Consequently we taught the kids to avoid the rhododendron and to play on the park’s bright plastic climbing equipment instead.
I choose trees over plastic slides. Bark-skinned palms over metallic monkey bars. But. Such freedom is not always possible and kids need to run and play. So we let them – in community centers, on trampolines, all over safety-inspected play structures. And I am grateful for all those things, I am.
It is just that I worry we are forgetting the trees. Forgetting to teach our kids to stand underneath them. To climb them. To value them. Forgetting to share the smell of a lilac or the pleasure of finding the perfect acorn with it’s crosshatched hat. Forgetting to look for the magic hiding in the branches of weeping willows. I worry that we are teaching fear over wonder.
I worry too that we are forgetting that trees are the lungs our planet uses to breathe. I worry about the birds. We are all connected to this habitat and plastic playgrounds will not sustain us.
Children need to run around. They also need wonder. And an earth to inherit.
Where do you look for trees? And wonder.
photo credit: blmurch at Flickr Creative Commons