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Some ruminations on trees

Sometimes in an urban person’s day, the nicest thing that can happen to one is to pass under some magnificent old trees with vast and shady canopies. Rain trees come to mind as do Gulmohars and who can ignore an avenue of Banyan trees. In our daily commute to work (which is slowly receding from memory in the last month of lockdown) how many of us notice trees, other than when we try to inch into their shade at a traffic light?

Now as the environment slowly shakes off the damage we do with our air and noise pollution, and the skies clear and birds return to chirp outside windows, the trees have been showing off, shiny new pink-green leaves unfurl, free of the usual grey soot that our traffic provides. And its fun dreaming about how our cities would look with many many more trees.  

As humans, we are inextricably linked to trees in a seemingly endless dance. We give them carbon dioxide and they give us oxygen and moisture in the air, and fruit and leaves and...and…ok, maybe not so symbiotic. We need them, but they’re fine without us. 

This Arbor day there are a vast number of things we could learn from a tree. A long time ago, poet Joyce Kilmer wrote, ‘I think that I shall never see a poem as lovely as a tree.’ And in saying that she seems to have caught the essence of a tree. Not the greatest artistic creation by a human being can compare to the quality that trees have. There is no standard for perfection in a tree, no tree police out there calling out trees for not having the right number of branches or the right angle for a selfie. And yet it's hard to call any tree imperfect, or below par. They just are and that is perfect.

What if humans could view themselves in similar ways? An internal experience of being perfectly happy in your own skin, embracing the scars and little zits and dark circles as a part of you; the face and skin you have beloved because its a part of the whole that is you.  It seems like a crazy thought, but only because we cannot separate ourselves from our value judgments about each other and ourselves. 

Trees also achieve balance in their own environments, whether its about sharing sun or stopping the spread of disease by not overlapping canopies ( a phenomenon called canopy shyness) or sharing groundwater and nutrition through a complex ‘social’ network. As we struggle to figure out balance during this pandemic and find new ways to connect without handshakes and hugs, there is much to learn about taking it slow and being a tree. About letting time take its course, and appreciating the wrinkles and savoring the scars born of precious experience. 

And when we return to the roads let us remember what Ogden Nash wrote as far back as 1932 and what is still relevant to us today:

I think that I shall never see
A billboard lovely as a tree.
Indeed, unless the billboards fall
I’ll never see a tree at all.

1 comment

Parameswar Rao

Trees are the beauty of nature, we need to protect them
But in the current situation and also due to other pollution they are getting lesser day by day
We as humans need to protect the wealth of trees and forests, for the smooth running of life many trees were cut down, due to our personal benefits

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