Yes, I have been known to literally hug a tree on occasion. And yes, I do consider myself a tree hugger in the figurative, often derogatory sense in which this term is used-that is, I’m an environmentalist, defined as follows: a person who’s concerned with, and advocates for, the protection of the environment. But don’t worry, I’m not going to use this post for ranting, sign-waving purposes.
I just want to write a bit about trees.
By the way, this is something that has long perplexed me: why are we not all environmentalists? After all, every living thing on this planet–including we humans–depends on a healthy environment to survive and thrive. You know, to do things like eat, drink, go outdoors without wearing a particle mask, and so on. That makes the environment pretty important in my book. So important that its protection should be elevated above petty politics. Way, way above.
Like, say, the height of a our tallest tree, the redwood.
Not long ago, my husband Brett and I took a hike that began in the mossy, sun-dappled shade of a mature forest where massive Douglas fir trees reached for the heavens. The air was cool and moist, and smelled of earth and decaying cedar stumps. As we climbed higher, we passed through avalanche clearings where petite alders rustled their leaves and gave off a sweet perfume. Eventually, the forest thinned and trim alpine firs took over. We sucked in their fragrance, too, along with the thin air.
Isn’t oxygen a wonderful thing?
When we arrived at our destination, an extraordinary place in Mount Rainier National Park called Summerland, we found a big stone to sit on next to a rushing stream. While we ate lunch and soaked up the sun, I marveled at the scene spread before us. Clouds swirling crazily around the mountain and marmots stuffing their faces. Butterflies fluttering over an emerald alpine meadow and cottony mountain goats clinging to a distant peak. Those marvelous, beautiful trees.
Too often I’ve taken trees for granted, even though they’ve given me so much. Food and shelter, just for starters. Good books to read and sturdy furniture to sit on. Cool shade on a sweltering run or a bike ride. Shielding from the wind and rain. These amazing woody plants are able to sequester carbon dioxide, a potent greenhouse gas, and remove pollutants from the air. Then they release all that wonderful oxygen, a gift to our lungs.
As our Puget Sound summers heat up, we’ve had visitors comment on how cool our un-air-conditioned home stays on a 90-plus day. We have our surrounding trees to thank for this. Our wild little woodlot is home or stopover for deer and elk, raccoons and opossums, tree frogs and garter snakes, all kinds of birds and bugs. It seems like our farm is always singing, always vibrating with life, thanks to these trees. Studies have even shown that being among trees makes us happier and healthier.
Of course, I could have told them this.
And it’s all the more reason to hug the next tree I meet.
You can learn more about the importance of trees and effects of deforestation here: http://wwf.panda.org/about_our_earth/deforestation/
Thanks for reading!