My childhood home sat near the dead-end of a street at the edge of town. Trees surrounded the house and blended into a small wooded lot which led to a tiny creek and swamp. Remnants of a fence on the edge of our backyard hinted of the division of town and country and legalized the boundaries of two different school districts. But for us neighborhood kids, the sloped field beyond the fence became a fun hill to sled in winter and during other seasons an interesting place to explore with stretches of grass and weeds and even a man-made dirt bank that kept town drain water from eroding the land .
The trees became my friends. I played among them and in them. I created little homes within the bark crevices and among their roots and allowed my imagination to make up stories of horses and other creatures which lived there and had exciting adventures. Massive oaks with tons of acorns seemed to be in abundance but my parents had also planted young maples and locusts. There were was also a scattering of dogwoods and even wild cherry trees. The trees made me feel secure and cozy and the seasons provided endless variety and pleasures. Spring spoke of life and beauty when buds swelled and burst into flowers and leaves. Muggy summer nights allowed sleeping outdoors and often we laid on our backs seeking imaginary creatures and people found in the outlines and shapes of the darkened trees. But summers also brought scary thunderstorms that tore down limbs and leaves and forever implanted within me a fear and awe of wind power. Autumn brought acorn battle fun and endless heaps of leaves to play in. Winter stripped the trees bare, yet with white snow clinging to the dark branches a peaceful pure beauty appeared unlike any of the other seasons.
Trees also were the homes of birds and squirrels — creatures that even now I enjoy watching.
Somehow I felt trees had feelings. As kids we would get live Christmas trees and decorate them. But then I would feel a sadness when the needles began to drop and it was time to take down the decorations. My mom would then drag it to the woods with our help as we got older (our dad worked a lot and wasn’t home much). It looked sad and forlorn and no longer useful.
Then came one Christmas season when the town authorities decided it was time to make our dead-end street into a proper cul-de-sac. More houses were being built and a proper circle had to be made. Trees were cut down and I can still remember standing at the kitchen window and crying as I watched. I felt the trees were hurting and dying and I was mourning for them.
Being now older and wiser, I realize trees do not have feelings as humans. Yet my adult heart still smiles as I read (or watched the movies) about the Ents in Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings and about the Wood Nymphs in C. S. Lewis’ Narnia stories in which the trees were like people. Of course trees are still living. And I confess that we humans have really made a mess of the world God has given us to take care of. I agree that “all creation groans for redemption.”
I’m not going to argue about global warming or if we all must use clean energy , but what I do feel convicted of is that I have not been serious about taking care of the world. I have spent most of my adult life in one of the most polluted countries in the world. Now I am living in a much cleaner environment here in the USA. But am I doing my part in keeping it clean? What about all the plastic I use? The fertilizer and weed-killers for my flowers? Do I recycle? Could I use less paper? And the list goes on…
This world is not going to last forever, but God has given me a responsibility to take care of it. And I want to do my part.
And maybe some day I’ll hug a tree, just because I do like them.