Today is the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. It came about because of a need, concern and now a responsibility to protect our air, water, wildlife habitats and public lands. I think of this day in terms of planting trees – our essential living green. Our lives depend upon the oxygen generated in a living tree. We need the enriched soil that develops through their roots and eventually, their decay. Without trees, the land would be barren. Forests filled with song and life would not exist.
Simply written, but powerful and unforgettable, The Man Who Planted Trees is a parable for modern times. In the foothills of the
French Alps, the narrator meets a shepherd who has quietly taken on the task of planting one hundred acorns a day in an effort to reforest his desolate region. Not even two world wars can keep the shepherd from continuing his solitary work. Gradually, this gentle, persistent man’s work comes to fruition: the region is transformed; life and hope return; the world is renewed.
I believe that we should all invest in the planting of trees, for personal use and for our shared land. Trees can serve as a living memorial for a passed dear one. When my husband John died, we placed his ashes in a wide hole to accommodate a new white oak tree. Family and friends each took a spade of earth to toss around the tree as they remembered him with words, stories, tears and laughter. The tree has grown to encompass a large area providing shade, strength, beauty and memories. At the base of the tree, flowers grow: hyacinths, sedum, cat mint and moss.
On this Earth Day, may I share Celia Thaxter: author of An Island Garden, 1894.
“Of all the wonderful things in the wonderful universe of God, nothing seems to me more surprising than the planting of a seed in the blank earth and result, thereof. Take a Poppy seed, for instance: it lies in your palm the merest atom of matter, hardly visible, a speck a pin’s point in bulk, but with it is imprisoned a spirit of beauty ineffable, which will break its bonds and emerge from the dark ground and blossom in a splendor so dazzling as to baffle all powers of description.”
Celia Thaxter grew up as a lonely child of a lighthouse keeper in the Isles of Shoals 10 miles off the coast of Maine. Among the ledges of rock, she cherished each blade of grass and every humble weed that sprang from the hard ground. She started a garden that even today is maintained on Appledore Island by Cornell University’s marine and biology students. Egg shells filled with bits of earth and treasured delicate seeds were started early inside then later planted between rocks and in the limited soil by Celia. The family goats provided manure which eventually made its way into the forming garden beds. She wrote stories and created poetry about the art of gardening and very specific traits of individual lovely flowers.
“Soon the whole plot mantles over all its surface with the rich, warm green of vigorous leafage. The new growth rejoices. That is the right word for it. The gladness of green growing things is apparent to any seeing eye. They rejoice with a radiant joy in sun and rain and air and dew, in all care and kindness.”
She shared the lovely gardens with artistic friends (Childe Hassam) who were inspired by the endless varieties and mixtures of color and surprise. Year after year the island garden has grown in beauty and charm. It is open to the public in mid- summer months but access is limited (boats leave from Portsmouth NH).
Although we may not create a beautiful flower garden on a remote island or plant a forest, we can be stewards of our earth when we recycle, conserve energy, and plant green (seeds and trees). This planet needs us to protect the environment and keep it healthy and clean.
Plant trees and flowers.
Love and respect all who support and care.