Confessions of a Tree Hugger

Reader Contribution by Rima Austin
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I have a confession; I have labeled myself a naturalist, maybe even a borderline hippie, but never a tree hugger. Although I lean more toward a liberal stance, I do have some conservative beliefs. I’m not a vegan or a vegetarian; I don’t eat granola as a main course; and I don’t smoke anything that is leafy green, brown or gold. I have recently, though, come to the conclusion that I adore trees. I love their strength and hardiness. I love their ability to make it through even the most violent storms and then see their leaves billowing gently in the soft breeze of the morning after when I wake up. All this is why I relish every opportunity to plant a tree and over the weekend I did just that.

This tree has stood at the corner of my property and my uncle’s land for as long as I can remember.

Because I work full-time, I have to plan my weekends according to what job is pertinent to my plans. Sometimes, however, something will fall in my lap that is unexpected, and I have to focus my attention on that. I received a text from my sister that she was at the USDA office and they were giving away White Poplar trees. Did I want any? Of course, my response was a resounding yes. I was expecting a couple of trees that I could plant close to the cabin in order to get some shade. She brought back 16 trees! Because I cannot, consciously, pick the best ones and let the others die I planted every one of them.

These little guys were not much more than twigs but some day they will be majestic shade trees.

I don’t know how many of you remember “Where the Wild Things Are” by Maurice Sendak, but remember when Max gets sent to his room with no supper and the trees start growing in his bedroom? Well, that will be me here in a few years. I decided to plant them all around my house. The closest one is planted 5 feet from one of the corners. I have a bad habit of doing this; it’s like a tic or something. I have a plum tree that my mother gave me last summer, and I have it planted right outside my bedroom window. A friend saw the proximity of the tree to the cabin and inquired as to why I would want the tree so close. I explained that when it started bearing fruit I wanted to be able to reach out my bedroom window and pick a plum off of it. The look some of you have on your face right now is probably the same look that my friend had on his face. It was that look that said, “Sometimes I wonder how you even find your way home.”

The plum tree is the only one I know the name of. I have rescued and planted more trees than I can think of on that farm, but I couldn’t tell you the name of any of them. I have two trees that started out as ragamuffin bushes, and would have continued to grow that way had I not started shaping them at a young age. I just call them the two brothers. I have one tree still in a pot that the only thing I know about it is it looks like an evergreen, but is not, and it does not like the direct sunlight.

My favorite tree is one I planted near my parents’ house. Many years ago I was working for a small welding shop. I came into work one day and the shop foreman had brought in a long, young tree that had just a few, tiny green buds protruding out of the trunk. Other than that it was all brown. I asked my boss what he planned to do with it; he said he was going to dump it somewhere after work. I told him that the tree was still alive. He laughed at me and questioned the amount of knowledge I would have about trees anyway, and reassured me the tree was, indeed, dead. I asked if I could have the tree and, obviously being grateful not to have to find a place to dump it, he agreed. Today that tree flourishes every summer. It has held everything from wind chimes to children skinning the cat. As corny as it sounds, I love that tree.

I acquired this tree when it was about 6 feet high and not much more than a pitiful limb. Now it is more than 20 feet and is my favorite tree.

There might be a step program for people like me. But I really don’t see my fascination with trees as a problem, and isn’t the first requirement to getting help admitting you have a problem?

This is the old lane that runs up beside my house. Once used as a horse lane to transfer the horses to the lower pasture, it is now just a beautiful walking lane lined with cedar trees.

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