This I Believe

Mary - Cove, Oregon
Entered on November 10, 2006
Age Group: 50 - 65
Themes: nature

I believe in trees. Trees cool the earth and calm the angry and troubled. If there were enough trees in the world, wars would end. Children would play happlily and villagers would go back to farming.

Here in the west, the hottest,driest summer in memory brought no rain to help the farmers or to water the trees planted and forgotten. Many withered before the end of August.

As I have done for six summers, I lugged buckets and dragged a hose around my two acres, always watering. I heaped mulch at the base of each young tree, many I’d started from seeds.

Gathering these seeds was pure joy. I raced the blue jays for Gambel’s oak acorns which ripen and vanish in less than a week each September. I strolled under catalpas picking up pods and slipped crabapples into my pockets Cherry and aricot pits were saved from summer. An Osage orange came from a church bazaar. I cut it in pieces and got 20 seedlings.

In Boise one October I saw an unknown tree with flaming fall color and bronze Chinese-lantern pods, each containing a round black seed. I asked the elderly woman raking her yard about it. She showed me seedlings so I knew these would sprout too. Later, I learned their name–Golden Rain trees. All of these varieties grew by planting the seeds in the ground in fall to let nature work her freezing and thawing on them.

Other trees I found as volunteers crowding each other. I transplanted and watered them. They are thriving now.

During these same years, my daughter was born and carried along until she could follow on her own. Keeping so many trees alive often exhausted me and made me question my investment of time. I hardly work and survive on a small income. I even thought I was selfish to stay home doing this rather than being an environmental activist. I considered myself poor.

This fall I advertised “Free trees for fall planting” in our local paper. The response was overwhelming. When people came to my place and saw my trees, I suddenly felt very rich. I sent them home with dormant trees in bags of damp leaves, and with handfuls of red crabapples.

Now I know my efforts are helping others: children who will walk by and relish the shade in summer, my daughter’s generation who will value planting and tending trees, everyone who depends on the rain.

I believe in trees. Wangari Mathai of Kenya so loved her people that she risked her own safety to help them plant trees. I hope my passion will make a difference here.