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I think that I shall never see...
If that line rings a bell, you are my people.
You're an artist, a poet, a writer, a curious explorer of wonder and creation...
—or a lover of trees.
Which, now that I think of it, might be all the same thing.
Me, I have a supernatural love for trees.
Trees are my family, my home.
Oh, I lived in a house growing up. And I have plenty of brothers and sisters—more than I can count—even if I use all my fingers.
But the trees in the woods near my house… they raised me.
Home in the woods in the trees
Some trees were born for climbing. They welcomed me with easy footholds and places to grab.
Lifting me up into their massive canopies, they cradled me in crooks of mighty branches, shaded me from the sun's piercing rays, and fanned me with the cool summer breeze.
And when I fell, which I did a lot, their thick blanket of discarded leaves and rich black soil cushioned me from harm.
I walked to school, but I ran to the trees.
In school, they taught rules and demanded obedience. But in the woods, I learned to be curious and explore.
The trees of the woods were my teachers; humble, wise, and kind.
I learned which trees bent, which trees broke, and which trees' bark had bite.
I listened to the White Pines whisper – letting me know that jetstream winds were bringing winter storms from the north.
Maples flipped their leaves, exposing their pale undersides to warn me of summer rain.
Boxelders and Ash were first to break down their chlorophyll, draining their verdant greens to reveal latent yellow and brown dotted pigments signaling summer's end.
And when things got rough, which they sometimes did, trees sheltered me from angry parents, older siblings, and the vicious street thugs who terrorized boys my age–especially when I was the only boy my age.
Reliable and steady, trees were always there for me.
Did you know that trees create the very air we breathe?
I mean trees and other plant life, of course, but my point is that without trees, there's no you, and there's no me.
But do you know what?
Trees get along just fine without us. In fact, they're usually better off.
Ever notice how long it takes trees to take over an abandoned rail line, house, parking lot, or building?
Not very long at all.
Look at Chernobyl.
Aspen, Pine, Birch, Cedar, and Oak...rising through radioactive concrete, asphalt, earth, and stone.
The original world wide web.
And trees talk with one another too.
Over 20 years ago, ecologist Suzanne Simard found that trees communicate their needs and share life-giving resources underground through interconnected webs of fungi called mycelium.
Trees use this underground web to warn each other of impending threats, feed their young, heal one another when they're injured, and make space for everything in their ecosystem to live in harmony.
But people wreck all that.
A friend and I had a landscaping company right out of high school.
Two earthworms wearing baseball caps happily pushing lawnmowers.
That was our business card.
Our first big landscape job was destroying a beautiful Japanese garden so the new homeowner could have grass instead.
Brian, my partner, tried to talk him out of it.
The gruff old homeowner, standing on his back porch with folded arms, wouldn't budge.
"I don't want to hear it! he growled.
"I just want a regular backyard. You get it?"
"I want to look out here and see grass. And that's that!"
"You want the job or not?"
It broke my heart to destroy all those beautiful, beautiful trees.
More than meets the eye.
Did you know that conifers aren't always evergreen?
Or that Oaks grow all over the world—even in the desert?
I can tell where I am on this earth by the trees living around me.
The palm trees here in Florida aren't native to the region – or even this hemisphere, for that matter. But they sure are beautiful.
Picturesque against the tender blush, rose hues, and apricot-orange night sky.
Our neighbor here in Florida doesn't have any trees on his property.
Not a single tree.
He used to have one tree on his lot – just one. Right on the back corner where our lots meet.
A mighty Slash Pine over 30 meters tall.
Pinus elliottii, if you prefer. And I do.
The long leggy needles littered his yard, he said.
"Besides, I want to build a shed and that old tree is in the way. It needs to go."
Keylea and I stood by as a strapping young lumberjack buckled tree gaffs around his muscled calves, looped his climbing rope around the majestic pine, and marched right up the tree like he was climbing stairs.
Fascinating to watch.
Nearly 100 feet in the air, this buff young craftsman, chainsaw swinging from his belt, went to work lopping off branches large and small, dropping each section of the mighty evergreen in the narrow space between our homes.
We gazed, slack-jawed and amazed as this lone young lumberjack toppled the massive tree, this beautiful, saintly specimen that had graced the earth for decades before any one of us was ever born.
And that's that.
The corner of our neighbor's property where Elliot the Slash Pine used to live is vacant now.
In the days after Elliot's demise, Keylea and I bore witness to a family of young Mockingbirds evicted from the safety of Elliot and their home. They rebuilt their nest, twig by painstaking twig, and relocated themselves to the Cedar hedge in our yard.
The Mockingbirds greet us early each morning with their wide and varied repertoire of songs, and they continue entertaining us throughout the day.
But I have to say...
I really miss ole Elliot.
I miss him a lot.
by Joyce Kilmer
I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.
A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the earth’s sweet flowing breast;
A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;
A tree that may in Summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;
Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.
Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.
I love you guys.