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Trees: The Wisdom Keepers and Nature’s Cleaners

Usually I make crepes Sunday mornings, but my husband, Matty, didn’t sleep well and asked to sleep in very late again this morning. So, in our old 100+ year old house, I find things to do that are very quiet and don’t make the floors creak.

It’s an icy cold morning and despite the cold, the dogs and cat have been fed and are warm, the chickens have decided they are not getting up yet, and only Xihe decided to leave her house to get breakfast while the other ducks stay inside. She approved of breakfast this morning (at least the cucumbers part of it).

I read a bit of Kawaguchi’s Before the Coffee Gets Cold and I’ll read another short story in Thompson’s Born into This. For the moment though, I’m entranced with Suzanne Simard’s Finding the Mother Tree. In cultures like the U.S., we are so far removed from nature. Everything is transactional and therefore, we are not taught to see the value in anything. For instance, diamonds are considered so precious, but they are plentiful on other planets. Almost a dime a dozen. But do you know what is rare on other planets? Trees!

When we think of trees in the U.S., which I don’t believe we often do, it’s about the leaves falling in autumn, a bird perching on a branch. When we think about it more, we may think about wood for building homes, toilet paper, and firewood. We don’t think about how trees are alive.

Trees work in harmony with an underground fungal system that enables a natural internet, if you will. Trees talk to each other. Mothers feed their children and give them water through this system. Together, kin or community of differing species, help the injured, send out signals for insects or animals to help when there’s a problem (like spotted lantern flies) or disease. The older the tree, the more essential it is as that tree is the elder and keeper of wisdom.

Matthew touching a fan palm tree in Oahu

Trees help us by drinking up water when there’s too much rain and our homes are in danger of flooding. They keep the soil around them healthy. They clean our air. Think about this, how many trees are on the street where you live? Is it enough to clean the pollution from your house and car, and that of your neighbor to help you breathe clean air? Is there enough to help you soak up the intense rains that keep growing with climate change?

When we moved to our home thirteen years ago, there were five large trees. Two spruce trees in the front of the house, two maple trees in the back and a pine tree at the furthest point on the property. The ones surrounding the house gave us shade in the summer keeping the house cool. It was nature‘s air conditioner. The pine tree in the back provided shade for our cars (which we park outside since we do not have a garage). We had a few other trees providing privacy along the fence line, a few yew trees pruned into shrubs and since then, we've planted so many more trees and shrubs. One of the streets along our house has become so busy and I can see the thick gray exhaust from cars cake onto our siding each year. I know our trees are helping clean the air for us. When our neighbors houses flood when the rain is intense, ours does not. Since we’ve moved in, I’ve laid under these trees, looked up into their canopy, swung from them, and thanked them for looking after us and hoping we are doing something to help them in return.

If you want to learn more about trees, I recommend the following books and documentary by Dame Judi Dench. 1) The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohllenben

2) Seeds of Hope by Jane Goodall

3) Finding the Mother Tree by Suzanne Simard

4) Judi Dench: My Passion for Trees

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