Not even consciously thinking about the fact that “Earth Day” is upon us, I looked out my window yesterday and felt an inexplicable urge to jump my neighbor’s fence and bury myself in the glorious magnolia petals that were piling up beneath her tree. If I were a kid, that’s exactly what I’d do. But, as of woman of a “certain age,” and not knowing my neighbor all that intimately, I decided to stay in my own backyard. Nevertheless, my overwhelming desire to be smothered in magnolia blossoms (not literally smothered, of course) got me thinking about how kids really “get” trees. And sometimes, grown-ups just don’t.
What is it about children and trees? As a child, I could think of nothing more exciting or better than a tree house. For a time, the kids next door had one in a huge old maple tree behind my garage. Climbing up there was the scariest and most magical experience. It felt incredibly dangerous (though it wasn’t all that high), yet once on the platform between the tree’s thick branches we could see for miles (or so it seemed).
For years, as a child, I spent hours gazing at trees. From my prone position on the grassy knoll in front of my house I stared up into the branches of three tall, ancient maples for hours, imagining fairies and elves in the shapes of the leaves. I spent hours under the dogwoods in the back of the property, sweeping the dirt floors of my imaginary “house.” We hid under the prickly branches of junipers, and spent long afternoons in the fall raking leaves just so we could jump in them.
Even though kids today are hooked into computers, cell phones and iPod’s most of the time, I think they still understand the majesty and magic of trees. My youngest son (who is no longer a youngster) could always be found climbing trees (mulberries were his favorite). If I couldn’t find him, I’d just look up, and there he’d be.
I guess I’m just a tree hugger from way back. In fact, I once got into a bit of a tiff with my neighbor across the street; for some inexplicable reason the man saw fit to chop down a tall pine that was home to my favorite mockingbirds. Never mind that they woke me up every morning at 4 a.m. with their chatter; the day that tree came down was a sad one for me (and no doubt, for them).
So, since it’s “Earth Day,” which really should be every day on this planet, here’s to trees!