Yesterday was the Monday of a long weekend for me. I could have slept in, but instead, I went out and planted trees with a local group. It was cold at first, and I would be lying if I said it was anything other than hard work. I ran into a few people I haven’t seen in years. There was good coffee, and never a dull moment.
It was an unequivocally positive experience.
I’ve always been a tree hugger. Maybe that’s because I grew up helping out in the family garden, up to my elbows in mulch and soil, with the understanding that, in the family garden, anything I accidentally uprooted, I would have to replant. Maybe it’s because I was lucky enough to attend a school for eleven years that taught tree-planting as a life skill, and where gardening was required every year.
My point is, I love nature, and planting trees is nothing new to me.
But this experience, oddly enough, was.
I’ve done stuff like this before. I’ve gone and planted plants, and set mulch around them, and heaven only knows I am no stranger to watering green saplings with buckets of river water.
But I’ve never been old enough to do it on my own.
I don’t mean that in terms of physical strength. I haven’t actually grown that much in a long time. I mean it in terms of maturity, in terms of my ability to carry on a conversation.
A couple of years ago, maybe even last year, I would have volunteered, and clung to my parents the whole time. Being one of not very many teenagers, there, I might not have introduced myself to only the adults my parents already knew, and I probably would have shied away from the little kids.
But yesterday, that didn’t happen.
I went off on my own, clutching a roll of biodegradeable tape, which I used to mark the newly planted trees, thus saving them from death by being overlooked by a stray lawnmower. I talked with most of the people I encountered, including a lot of little kids, and several people who know my parents. But I was on my own.
And that got me thinking, about trees and symbolism, and growing up.
Because trees? They start out right next to their parent-trees, from which their seeds are dropped. Then they start sprouting roots. But they only flourish if those roots have space to spread out.
However, they won’t spread out if they don’t sprout in the first place. And they won’t sprout if they’re never dropped from a tree.
It’s all a cycle, and every step is reliant on that which came directly before it.
People are like that too. Or at least, I know I am.
I was out and about essentially on my own yesterday, though my parents were there and we did spend some time together at the event. But that wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t met at least a couple of these people before, which I would not have if I hadn’t stayed close by my parents the last time we did something like this, which we wouldn’t have done if my parents hadn’t ingrained a sense of environmental responsibility in me from a very young age.
It all comes back to the beginning.
It’s like a book.
Every new chapter is new and exciting, but it couldn’t possibly have happened without the chapter before it. Even the first chapter of any book is still heavily reliant on the parts of the story that are not being narrated. And if you don’t have those? Then chances are, I’m not all that interested in the story, because if you ask me, it isn’t one.
It’s as if trees didn’t have roots. They wouldn’t be trees. And if people didn’t have the ability to grow up, we wouldn’t be people.
We would be a race of children (more so than we already have the tendency to be), wandering the earth in search of the Fountain of Aging, instead of the Fountain of Youth..
I would rather be a tree, with its roots that spread far, far away, far enough to become entangled with other roots far enough away that they cannot be seen, even if the viewer stands directly below the tree itself.
In the meantime, I plant the trees, so I may later stand under shade.