The Behemoth

pine tree morning

Have you ever had a behemoth in your life?  Did the elephant in the room ever come sit on you? Has there ever been a big thing that plopped down on you and grabbed you and now is sucking the light out of your life or in this case your yard…

I moved into this house 13 years ago. Back then it was quite a different place, besides of being denied of my whimsical vibes and general weirdness, the house and surrounding yard lacked the appropriate plant and animal life.  The backyard lies on a double lot. In the far west back are big bushes of the still unknown variety.  A very tall pine tree stood in the center like a behemoth.  This tree was too big for the yard and it’s influence was greatly felt.  The tree rendered 90 % of the yard dark and pine needly, what little grass that grew was patchy and only grew to shaggy and straggly near the outer parameters of the yard—the only place the sun was able to shine. This was where the tallest of the strongest weeds grew. They stood like sentinels seeming to be guarding the yard from interlopers.  This yard had been neglected for some time. There was nothing; no odd wildflower sprouting up, no old forgotten rosebush in the corner overgrown with weeds. Nothing to show that someone who loved flowers was once there. I have a fondness for old neglected gardens, finding the traces and leftovers of a plants that at one time were planted there by someone and cared for and enjoyed them. To me it sort of feels like walking back through time. And I try how to image how the place once looked. To me gardens have always felt like the person who once loved them.

It has always been a fantasy of mine to move into a place with a yard like that. Where I would have the joy of discovery of  finding and resurrecting once overlooked wonderfulness. an opportunity to nurse it back to former glory with equal parts love, devotion and hard work.

Well this yard had none of that; no hidden charm or gem. Just pine needles, grass and a few weeds and an overgrown hedge.

There was nothing to save and resurrect because there was nothing there.  The tree took in all the life-giving light for itself and didn’t share. Nothing was left.

I tried to make the best of it. I have always been a gardener at heart. I have this need to be surrounded by plants. I probably got this trait from my mother who lived and breathed plants too.  My childhood was filled with memories of the outdoors; of soft green grass, and miniature roses, big green trees with arching limbs, blue skies with big puffy clouds, a chorus of birds chirping and singing away happily. To me nature has also been magical and gardens a way for us mere mortals to create a bit of our own magic.

I much as I love trees I knew that if that if that behemoth didn’t leave we would never have a decent backyard, besides it was dropping needles like crazy, probably not a good sign. We knew what had to be done. We got three bids and went with the lowest one and the behemoth was gone 3 days later.

backyard stump
We decided to save the stump. We had it shaved off at about three feet. It reminds me of the one the Lorax stood on in the Dr. Seuss classic. There it remains today.

Once the behemoth was gone, the yard was instantly transformed.  It was if summer had finally come after a long cold lonely winter. My mind starting whirling with ideas on what to do next. I picked a corner, started digging and never looked back.

I wanted this place to become an extension of me– “my little kingdom” and I spent hours and hours working…sometimes 6 or 8 hours a stretch with no break out there digging in the mud, planting, raking, pruning, mowing. digging, lots of digging…

I really enjoyed the work which surprised me. I was never good at sports or anything physical but I enjoyed this gardener’s workout.  (it’s not as easy as it may look)

Over the years, a little this and some more that. I couldn’t afford a bunch of plants at once, so I would add little bits here and there; more and more each year. I saved many seeds and learned to propagate, adding more and more plants. As time went on the yard looked better and better. I started to feel good about this and started to feel good about myself.

I didn’t much feel good about myself back then so this was a really good thing. I lacked self-confidence and wasn’t too sure of myself. I was shy ( I still am) this simple act of working hard, achieving a wonderful result that others and yourself can enjoy is absolutely wonderful. It makes a person such as myself feel all warm and toasty inside. This gave me a dose of confidence and more importantly made me realize the other behemoth in my life. The one’s who mighty shadow I was standing in and to an extent still do

This huge dominating force is not a tree, but it has taken root in me–planted there a long time ago. This behemoth is called fear. Unlike a tree I can’t just hire someone to come cut it down. But living in its shadow has rendered me a late bloomer I am afraid to say.  I am also afraid to say it still stands but it is no longer a behemoth; just a big weed now. I will probably always struggle with fear to some extent. I highly doubt that I am the only one…but, I have cut it down to size and now my own personal garden in thriving in the light and is home to thousands of bright happy things.

Strawberryindigo.

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Did you ever have a behemoth in your life? What was it and how did you overcome it? 

lemon rose cu

“People where you live,” the little prince said,grow five thousand roses in one garden… yet they don’t find what they’re looking for…

“They don’t find it,I answered.

And yet what they’re looking for could be found in a single rose, or a little water…”

“Of course, I answered.

And the little prince added, “But eyes are blind. You have to look with the heart.”
― Antoine de Saint-ExupéryThe Little Prince

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Save the Trees

“A civilization flourishes when people plant trees under whose shade they will never sit.”

~Greek Saying

The tall pines of the Pacific Northwest

I’ve always had a thing for trees; I am a tree-hugger from way back, before I knew there was such a thing. I admit I’ve always carried a torch for tall guys and trees. The statuesque pines of my native Pacific Northwest really do it for me.  I feel safe in the woods among the wild green of the forest. I have always been strangely drawn to them…perhaps it’s in my blood; a throwback to my very distant Native American ancestors, maybe it’s because I am fortunate enough to live a stonesthrow to a temperate rainforest or it could be that trees are just really that wonderfully special and useful structures that are a vital part of out global ecosystem.

I love to be in the forest right after a tender rainfall. The fresh scent of pine is so welcoming to me. The way the morning sun shines through the boughs of the trees and how the steam rises from the tree tops. I feel privileged to witness such an event.

Beyond their majestic beauty, trees provide we the inhabitants of this marvelous planet with so much, they give us their all and we as the human stewards of this land have not returned the favor.  Ever since our beginnings as small rodent-like creatures living in a reptile dominated world we clung to the trees for our very lives. Ever experience the phenomena of falling asleep and feeling the sensation of falling only to “catch” yourself? That is a leftover from our distant mammalian past.  Back to the days when our ancestors lived their entire lives in the tree canopy.  Our close relatives the apes still swing from branch to branch; adept as ever, holding on with one hand whilst using the other to reach for tasty fruit.

mount tabor tree view

Trees today provide sustenance and shelter to a wide variety of lifeforms and they in their wide variety have perfectly adapted to our planet’s many climates and microclimates. Trees are powerhouses of natural resources and we have depended on their immense wealth for as long as we have been here. Unfortunately, I think we take them for granted; believing them to always be in abundance.  There has always been another to chop down…and another and another.

This has led to major deforestation. According to data compiled by the World Resources Institute, our beautiful planet Earth has already lost 80 percent of its forest cover due to deforestation.

Deforestation has many negative effects on the environment.  Seventy percent of the planet’s land animals and plants live in forests, and will perish without their homes. Trees play a crucial role in absorbing greenhouse gases. Fewer forests means larger amounts of these gases entering the atmosphere and this increases the speed and severity of global warming.

Deforestation must stop if we are to continue on this planet.  I think some don’t realise how much we need trees and as a lover of trees, like my literary hero, The Lorax,  I shall speak for the trees…

lorax on stump
“I am the Lorax. I speak for the trees. I speak for the trees for the trees have no tongues.”
~from The Lorax by Dr. Seuss~(credit: Public domain)

Forests are vital to our Ecosystem

Forests counter erosion by holding soil together with their roots, this helps keep the nutrient rich topsoil in place which gives plants something to grow and flourish in, this also helps reduce flooding.  They protect agriculture by modifying local climate extremes and ensuring water supplies. They help prevent pollution by acting like natural sponges and air filters; absorbing storm water that normally would end up in our rivers and streams.

Trees sequester carbon and absorb other airborne pollutants. They even have the ability to clean contaminated soil and ground water. One mature tree releases enough oxygen to support two people.

The leaves of trees absorb light energy, reducing reflected heat. When trees absorb water through their root system, they release moisture through leaf surfaces by a process called transpiration.  This cools the air and can reduce the surrounding temperature by as much as 10 degrees Fahrenheit and the temperature directly under the tree by as much as 25 degrees Fahrenheit. Tree canopies blocks the sun’s rays during the day and holds in heat at night. Without them to protect us this will lead to more extreme temperatures swings that can be harmful to plants, animals and humans.

Trees help return water vapor back into the atmosphere. Without trees many former forest lands can quickly become barren deserts.

Trees and People

Studies have shown the relationship between trees and nature and mental and physical health. Patients in hospitals heal more quickly if they have a view of trees and nature. People are much more likely to go outside and walk through tree-lined communities,  helping to provide a sense of community and well-being which in itself enhances people’s health. Simply viewing nature, or urban greenery decreases stress levels and enables people to cope better with day-to-day hardships.

Trees are Economical

Trees, especially mature ones, increase real estate values. They muffle urban noise and during the cold season; act as windbreaks; saving on heating costs. During the hot summer months their shade helps cool a house thus saving on air conditioning costs.

Trees are good neighbors

Trees are good for business

Trees not only improves the ability of residential neighborhoods to build community, they also contribute positively to business districts. Studies have shown that shoppers prefer to spend more time in canopied business districts and perceive merchants in those districts more positively than merchants in districts with fewer trees. This ultimately results in wider community networks encompassing not just where we live, but also where we work, shop, and play.

I think I’ve presented a good case for trees. Obviously we need them and they need us . How can we help our friends the trees?

friends of trees

How to help trees

Deforestation is such an immense problem. It is easy to feel helpless. Where do we start?

What follows are some simple ways your average person like you and I can do:

  • If you have the room on your property plant a tree or two…or more. If you must cut one down, replace it with another in a different spot.
  • If you don’t have the room or the opportunity to plant a tree, consider joining the Plant A Billion Trees Campaign and help protect The Brazilian rainforest which is home to 23 species of primates and 1,180 species of mammals, amphibians, reptiles and fish and 1,000 species of birds, almost 200 of which are not found anywhere else on Earth. Rainforests help regulate the atmosphere and stabilize global climate.
  • Help support The Nature Conservatory. This is a good cause which needs all the help it can get. Click on the link to read more about this fine organization.
  • Want to help closer to home?  Support Local Land Trusts and Parks. There are many to choose from, just a quick Google search will uncover many.
  • Cut down on junk mail. It’s fairly simple: Register for the Mail Preference Service on the Direct Marketing Association website. For $1, your name and  address will be removed from prospective mailing lists. This should end about 75% of your junk mail within about 90 days. ( Who likes junk mail anyway?)
  • Use Paperless Billing. It cuts down on paper and really simplifies your life, giving you more time to go out and enjoy nature.
  • Another way to save paper is to simply reuse scraps. I use old envelopes for my shopping lists. Also when printing something consider using both sides and while you are at it, ask yourself “Do I really need to print this?” Sometimes you sincerely don’t need to.
  • Libraries are the perfect place to go for free access to newspapers and  magazines in print. E-readers like the Kindle and tablets like the iPad makes it easier than ever to read the digital editions of your favorite publications.
  • Use reusable shopping bags. It can be a hassle to remember but once you get used to it, it gets easy. Keep a few in your car or by the front door. Lead by example and show other shoppers you care about the environment. Perhaps you’ll prompt them to do the same.
  • While you are shopping, whether it be furniture, building materials or paper goods, look for FSC- and SFI-certified products. The FSC is the Forest Stewardship Council, which sets standards for third-party certification of private forests worldwide. The SFI is the Sustainable Forestry Initiative, which focuses on wood from North American Forests. Another excellent way to shop is by using Rainforest Alliance Certified Products, for a list visit their website.
I've got the whole world in my hands
We’ve got the whole world in our hands. Credit: Public domain

WE CAN DO THIS!

I realise what I’ve said here is simplistic and the problem goes so much further than any one person or any one nation for that matter.  I could cover my property in trees and never use a single piece of paper again. Everyone reading this could do the same, but the problem would still be there.  I suppose that’s why I’m writing this; to help keep a dialogue going because we as a society need to have this discussion.  We need to make saving our forests and saving our planet a priority.  Our governments could do so much more.  Socially, we can do more.  We are a constantly evolving people and what was acceptable once doesn’t mean it has to be acceptable in the future.

Many believe that growing our economies is more important than growing trees. These two important causes do not need to be mutually exclusive. We the people are a force to be reckoned with.

Write a blog post; better yet, write your local government official, write the president, any president… tell them we need to stop the abuse of our planet, if not for our sake, for the sake of our children and our children’s children who will inherit the mess from us.  Think the environment is going to hell now?  This is nothing compared to the nightmare that future generations may inherit if we don’t act.

I don’t mean to sound negative because I am hopeful.  We have made it this far in the evolutionary ladder. This is another stepping stone to our ultimate destiny, whatever that will be.

We in the first world can lead the way, together with the rest of the world we can fix this. The time of the United States’ domination is over. We have set the standard for the rest of the world and it’s not fair to blame other less fortunate countries from trying to get a piece of what we have. Instead of condemning and punishing them, we need to help them. We need to work together on this. This planet belongs to us all and so does the problem.

We can do it!

3 trees

“Trees are poems the earth writes upon the sky, We fell them down and turn them into paper, that we may record our emptiness.” 

~Khalil Gibran

UNLESS someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It's not.
UNLESS someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.

The Benefits of Trees (newswatch.nationalgeographic.

Deforestation Facts and Stats (worldpreservationfoundation.org)

Reforestation (oregonforests.org)

The Friends of Trees (www.friendsoftrees.org)  An excellent organization

“Look Now–The world in facts, stats, and graphics” ©2010 by Joe Fullman, Ian Graham, Sally Regan and Isabel Thomas

“The Urban Tree Book” ©2000 by Arthur Plotnik 

“The Lorax” by Dr. Seuss (one of my all-time personal favorites)

electric blue sky with pines by SBI

I speak for the trees (strawberryindigo.wordpress.com) One of my first posts

Severe Drought In The Amazon Is Caused By Climate Change, Study Finds (planetsave.com)

Tree and human health may be linked (sott.net)

Real Estate Tip:Trees Improve Energy Efficiency (themarycoxteam.wordpress.com)

Clones of the world’s oldest and largest trees,… (rivalanimus.com)

Autumn’s Light

Sugar Maple - Acer saccharum leaves in autumn ...
Image via Wikipedia

There is a certain magic in this time of year.  A wild little whimsy of hope and a tinge of excitement at what adventure the future may bring.  There is a crispness in the air that is fresh and clean and fills me with inspiration.  To me, Autumn  signals a new start, a fresh beginning.  It’s the time to wake up from the haze and laze of summer.

 The dappled sunlight of the dewy morning dances and delights on the amber trees.  The sky is a deep blue and the clouds are soft and cool. I sit quietly under the laurel tree and watch the flourish of life before me. 

The very soil itself teems with life, down to the very microscopic. A seemingly endless variety of insects, crawlers and walkers and flyers.  White butterflies cavort among the Asters.   Attracted by the pineapple sage in the corner, Ruby throated Hummingbirds dart in and out. The crows atop the Jack pine stare down in defiance and call to me. I laugh at them and continue on my way. 

The cats follow me around as I do the watering.  Soon the rains will come and this chore will become a distant memory; something I complain about now but I will miss come January.   

The enormous sugar maple in the distance wears the first few signs of the season. There is a richness that runs through this time of the year. Like a deep and vibrant jewel.  I hold it up to the light and its exquisite beauty stuns me. 

This is one of my favorite times of the year and its easy to see why. I breathe in the moment and plan to hold it forever…

Happy Autumn!

Strawberryindigo. 

Good Tree Bad Tree

I must confess something to you.  I have been known on occasion to brag up my green thumb, yes, its shocking but true.  Most of the time I can back that statement up but not now…

Now at this very moment a reddish-brown shriveled husk of a tree sits in my front yard, a testimony to my ignorance and arrogance. I know enough about trees to know better.  It is a foolhardy and risky endeavor to plant a tree where one once stood, especially an old sick one. I am guilty of such an offense.

It all started innocently enough.  I was at one of my favorite nurseries. I was wandering around like I do when I spied a beautiful tree, it was smallish and covered with tiny white flowers.  It was a dwarf Yoshino Ornamental Cherry tree and it had a twin!  I get excited by stuff such as that.  I almost let out a squeal and start to jump up and down but I contained myself long enough to purchase the trees and arrange for their delivery.

Now I had to figure out where to plant them.  I have a habit of falling in love at the nursery and bringing home plants I have no room for.  So far it has all worked out, I’ve always found a home for them, but trees are special.  You can’t just stick them anywhere and expect them to thrive.  But that’s what I did. Right where an old sick one once stood about a year ago.

I guess I thought the tree and I where above such practical nonsense as compaction and nutrient depletion and for a while it seemed that we were.

I was so proud of the trees, they were the first in the neighborhood to bloom.  People would stop and gaze appreciatively at them as the passed by.  I too, would gaze appreciatively  at them and that is what I was doing when I noticed the first brownish leaf.  It was just one.  I didn’t worry.  Then more brown leaves started to appear. I scoured gardening books like I do and found the answer.  It was a harmless fungus and it would be O.K. in time.  We’d had an unusually wet spring so that made sense to me.

The other healthier tree grew and produced green glossy leaves, While its ugly twin stood there looking sick and depressed.  I tried to fed it, I tried some old gardening tricks, to no avail.  In the back of my mind, I knew what was wrong, I hoped that everything would turn around.

Now I would avoid the tree like the plague, I couldn’t stand the sight of it.  The sight of my failure, for all to see.  Where once the tree invoked pleasure in the people walking by.  Now people shook their heads and made faces of disgust as they walked by.

Does having a dying tree in my yard make me a bad person?   I know people want to ask what I did to the poor thing?  I feel so embarrassed.  I”ve almost cut it down several times, it small enough for me to do by myself.  Something in me won’t let me do it.  Maybe I’m holding out hope for the underdog, which I have a habit of doing.

I just can’t give up on this poor wretched tree.  So I’m babying it and watering it and even talking to it.  It is probably a lost cause but I’m crossing my fingers and hoping for the best.  Please, wish us luck…

Strawberryindigo.