The Value of a Tree, You and Me

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Recently, the news reported those who live among trees will breathe air up to 25%  richer with oxygen. Trees nourish us and remain a daily reminder of God’s love for people. Even in the midst of cement city, a tree refreshes weary eyes and lifts our spirit.                                                                         A tree that may in summer wear,                                                                            A nest of robins in her hair…    

House hunting in the suburb sprawl, my second time around, I became obsessed with finding a home with a view- of trees.  Trees above the roofs.  I wasn’t alone.

Walking down the old Sac T street area after work one day, a young man sat on the porch steps stroking a cat sprawled across his back.

“I love to look at all the beautiful trees and little homes on your street,” I smiled.

“We all moved here for the tree-lined streets.” He didn’t skip a beat. I understood.

                         I think that I shall never see a poem as lovely as a tree…

For me, the love of trees really burst into my psyche with the lovely stanzas by American poet, Joyce Kilmer. My 4th grade class was required to memorize his poem and recite it aloud… a tree who looks at God all day and lifts her leafy arms to pray. (Yes, public school.)

Living ten years in my first house, a new development where none on our cul-de-sac could grow trees, appreciation for nature heightened with each neighborly conversation. We’d  scope our barren fencelines and commiserate. “My three birch trees died”…”My maple couldn’t grow. I’ve tried multiple types–they all die.” And remember, no trees, no birds.

One afternoon relocated in my second home, I pulled up to my shady haven to construction crews and whirring sounds. A large truck blocked my driveway. Suddenly my stomach felt empty as I looked up at the large hot blue sky, once laced by pine branches from my vantage point. Two large stumps remained on my neighbor’s front lawn where once stood gorgeous Redwoods I adored.

“Why did you cut them down?”  I later asked my new neighbor in the midst of mass remodeling. “Oh, they were making cracks in the cement.  And they were old nasty trees anyway.  We knew you wouldn’t like it.”

“I used to covet those trees and wished they were mine.”

“Well, we wish we could have moved them over to your property.”

Sometimes I don’t understand how we all have such different values of beauty and nature.  Why am I so upset! ?

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Working with incarcerated youth, one summer day a young woman showed me her wrists,  slashed and healing. The scar lines reflected her self-esteem. I pointed out the window to the graceful branches of a  tree dangling its leaves like a beautiful fringed blouse.

“See that tree? Isn’t it a beauty?” Together we gazed at its weighted limbs and peaceful presence. “Would you cut a branch off that tree?”  She silently stared as it’s shadows silhouetted and cooled the walls.

“No. It brings us shade and pleasure, just by being near it. You are far more beautiful and complex a creation of God? Cut yourself? Your worth is priceless.”

Her face relaxed. A word of truth, conviction. An added positive to overcome the negative messages in her head, her past, one few of us encounter.

Senseless, difficult things happen in life. And we ask God to help us all live together and continue to value each other even when the things we value may be so different.

The  Psalmist in Psalm 73 had been plagued all day long in his attempts to live above the evil he saw around him, the things that didn’t make sense. Sometimes there is no place to go here where our feet are grounded in dirt. But then we found relief in simple beautiful ways.

I stop writing and just gaze at the sunshine beaming off the ash leaves dancing in the wind. Or the heavier pine branches swaying nearby, their pinecones positioned to please the squirrels scampering busy at work and play. Gazing at the beauty of nature is always one simple way of escape to dwell on the positive in spite of the political and business news, the drama, the illness, and troubles that court us from all sides.

Times with God affords peace and a time to offer to Him all the situations only He can control or tend. Times spent sharing life and praying with those we love relieves burdens. Reading the Word brings stability. Gratefulness, from seeking to be thankful for the goodness and beauty we do possess and know of, acts as branches blocking the ugly and senseless people and acts beyond our mental and emotional capacity to comprehend. Thanking God for nature and resting our eyes, our soul and spirit from too much bombardment from every direction, political, social, business, medical….

Today I thank God for the intrinsic value of a tree, free for all socioeconomic groups. Trees that provide nesting places for the songbirds, food for the squirrels and a haven for our soul and spirit.

“When I tried to understand all this, it was oppressive to me, until I entered the sanctuary of God….” verse 17

“Yet, I am always with you, you hold me by my right hand. You guide me with your counsel and afterward, you will take me into glory…My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. ”  v 26

Tree Dancer…One Arborist Story

tree dancerFearless and hanging from trees with the greatest of ease, the agile man dangled high from a branch of our 70-foot heritage ash tree, rigged in some form of human pulley sytem.

Feeling angst and admiration, I cupped my hands like a megaphone. “As a nurse I saw many patients in the trauma unit who fell out of trees attempting to trim them.”

“My wife says I dance in the trees.” He grinned down at me as he stabilized the unpowered chainsaw against the thigh of his saggy blue jeans. This was his second visit to finish trimming the massive sentry poised in our front yard.

“Don’t worry.” The tree dancer wiped his free hand across his blue polo shirt. “I started trimming redwoods in Northern California when I was eighteen and now I’m thirty-four.”

“I guess it’s OK because you have a harness and ropes.” I tried to convince myself.

“I won’t fall…I’ve only fallen once. My buddy had called me one evening to come trim his tree. He was in the middle of it and needed help.” My wife had pleaded, “Don’t go! We’re just sitting down to eat dinner.”

Now, he shook his head and continued the story from the heart of our ash.

“So I went over… and ended up falling twenty-five feet.” He held up a loose section of rope…“The rope snapped. I hit the roof, my neck bent and then I fell to the ground, mangling my hand. I had to go to the ER and then trauma unit for four days.” He sighed deeply. “It was my fault… I know never to use another man’s equipment.”

“I don’t really know anything about tree cutting,” I said. “What do you mean?”

“I always buy good rope,” he pushed the rope he clenched toward me. ‘This rope can hold 5000 lbs per square inch.’ He pulled the bright fuschia colored cord taut between his greasy hands and re-braced himself against the tree. ‘My friend’s equipment was some cheap rope he got at Home Depot that holds 250lbs per square inch.”

“Really? I would never have known the difference.”

“I buy rope every six months, it’s very important.” He dangled his leg over a small branch ready to pull out and cut. Other rope was around a larger branch and some went through his harness.

“Is that limb large enough to hold your weight?” The thin branch gave me the jeevies…it was hard to hold back my apprehension.

“Even though it looks like I’m sitting on this smaller limb, it’s actually only taking about twenty pounds of my weight!” He pushed his feet against the trunk. “Actually,
the heavier portions are spread by the ropes to the other larger branches.”

I followed the crisscrossing lines, not really sure how it all worked, but amazed at how he rigged it all up.

Minutes later, after the whirring sound stopped, he lowered a huge limb slowly to the ground by rope beside a chainsaw, now swinging slightly on a rope from another branch adjacent to his dangling legs. It looked like a juggling act.

“You like your work don’t you?” I yelled toward him.

“Oh, I love it!” And, I like working for my boss because he sets the price so I can just do the work. When I had my own business I lost money because I just couldn’t charge these little old people who hardly had anything… I ended up doing it free.”

“Then, when I worked for Smud it was terrible. People hated me. They would get so upset that I was coming to cut their trees because they were near the power lines.”

“You’re kidding?” I felt truly surprised.

“No, I’m serious.” I had ladies crying and men would get angry. People even threatened some SMUD workers with guns.

“Why?” I asked incredulous.

“Because people are very emotional about their trees.”

An hour later, grounded and off the tree, he sawed wood and stuffed it in his SUV while I raked around the front yard. Sammy and Benji both chewed on a couple nice bare branches they had found.

He continued to teach me how important it is to cut a tree correctly, “People can kill a tree if they cut it in the wrong spot. For instance, just cutting a branch, even a small one in the wrong way at the wrong time of year, can lead to infection and a sick tree.”

“People can kill a tree if they cut it in the wrong spot. For instance, just cutting a branch, even a small one in the wrong way at the wrong time of year, can lead to infection and a sick tree.”
Stilled by wonder for a moment, I studied the long lanky branches as the sun shone through my special tree. I felt really, really good, like I did something special for something that deserved it.

“Your tree will be happy now,” he said positively. “It will grow and fill in the gaps and balance itself out. And, it saves you a lot of money by shading your house—it really makes a difference.”

“You know, I bought this house mainly because of this tree and the trees in the backyard.” I felt sentimental recalling the difficult search to buy a home, and the joy when I first sighted leaves dangling in the breeze above the modest suburb roof coupled with a for sale sign on the front lawn.

“I know what you mean,” the tree dancer smiled.

And so, we love our trees just like Adam and Eve did in the garden. God created them for our pleasure, to enhance our life. They remind us of our beginnings, the roots of our past. They represent shelter and relief, and the steadfastness and endurance of their Creator…and ours.

And the Lord God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground–trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. Genesis 2:9