Saturday, April 14, 2012

Holidays and Trees


Holidays and Trees
It’s the Spring holiday season – Easter and Passover – when most everyone celebrates.  And these celebrations often extend outdoors to places like Fort Greene Park in Brooklyn, which is a great place to walk and enjoy a bit of nature in the middle this big city.  Last weekend there were lots of people, families, and dogs there, doing all the things that people do when they’re relaxing outdoors, including enjoying the trees.

100 years ago they planned this park as a place for families to relax and to view the many different varieties of trees.  There’s a trail through and around the park; the path, like the rest of the park, is lined with all kinds of trees, and most of them have descriptive plaques telling what they are. These include: Magnolia, Ginkgo, European Beech, Northern Red Oak, Norway Maple, White Ash, Japanese Zelkova, Japanese Pagoda, Honeylocust, Silver Linden, Common Hackberry, Mulberry, Black Cherry, Amur Corktree, Himalayan Pine, Scots Pine, Sugar Pine, Pitch Pine, Jack Pine, Black Pine, Eastern White Pine, Pin Oak, Bur Oak, Osage Orange, a Tulip Tree and a Golden Rain Tree. There are many more without any identifying plaques…and then there are plaques in front of stumps, most of which once were and are all that remain of the Elm trees that used to be there.

As I looked at the plaques for what were the Elm trees, I couldn’t help but think back and reflect on my life.  I grew up in a city in upstate New York that was known for all of its Elm trees.  There were beautiful, tree-line avenues where the big Elm trees grew up and their branches connected overhead to form canopies.  We played in these trees, and where there were large stands of them in the parks and backyards, we pretended we were cowboys, and soldiers, and Robin Hoods among them.  There were lazy afternoons spent in and under the trees, and countless hours of carving our names and initials in the trees.  And in the fall, we raked and burned the leaves that fell like others had done for countless years before.  Cars crashed into some of the trees, kids fell out of others; birds built their nests in the trees and the squirrels scampered up and along their branches; sunlight shined through the leaves and branches, and ice and snow stuck to them in beautiful patterns.

And then Dutch Elm disease struck, and in a short span of years the trees started dying and falling.  The demise of the trees seemed to reflect the demise of life as we knew it in that rust-belt city.  Companies and jobs moved away, kids like us went to college and settled in other towns (unlike our parents and grandparents who had stayed), and the close-knit neighborhoods slowly changed.  It seemed if we couldn’t have the trees, we weren’t going to have any of the rest of the good things that used to be there. I’m not sure these were actually connected, but it seemed that way to a young kid growing up at that time.  So much was changing in that decade known as the 60s, and this just seemed to exemplify all of that.  Again, I’m sure they weren’t connected, but it sure seemed that they were.

But, like in Fort Greene Park, new trees get planted, new roots grow, and once mighty things get replaced by new ones that create their own stories and legends. And pretty soon the vestiges of the old are replaced by the realities of the new.  Nothing much is lost in the long run, but during the transition there’s an unsettled feeling until that which is new gets rooted and accepted.  I guess it’s just the reflections through these old eyes that takes some getting used to.  So as I sadly stood there in front of the space where once a mighty American Elm used to stand, I took heart in all the new and vibrant trees that are living and growing there now.  Life truly does go on, reflections of things past continue to nourish the soul, and awareness and acceptance of things present offer hope for the future.  I guess the trick is to blend them together to form our views and perceptions of yesterday, today and tomorrow.  And maybe that’s the real message of the Spring holiday season.

My message this week is to passionately remember the past and embrace the things we have now:

Arte Nathan“Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting. So... get on your way.”  -Dr. Seuss

Theodor Seuss Geisel (1904 – 1991) was an American writer, poet, and cartoonist most widely known for his children's books written under the pen name Dr. Seuss.

If today is your day, then what will you do to make sure that the day goes the way you want it to go?  Will you try to influence the things and the people you’re with, with the things that you know and way that you feel?  Or will you show them the way by the way that you act and open their eyes with the things that you see?  Each of these – a feeling or act – can help others to know and to know how you want them to feel and react.  Because those are the ways that are best to be used when you are trying to show them the you that is you and the best things to do.  So remember this simple but very good rule that you’ve got to believe in and always should use: that showing your passion and feelings and such should always be used and will always be cool.  And oh, by the way, as a way to help others it’s a very good tool. Yep – today is your day! Your mountain is waiting. So get on your way.

Stay well!

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