Working trees sustain life, deserve our protection

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This time of year when we begin to go outside and notice the green and flowering growth, we are more attentive to our friends and advocates, those wonders of the natural world and sustainers of life — our trees.

We observed Arbor Day in North Carolina on March 22 this year, so the trees planted on that day are already growing up a storm and gearing up for the work they will do during their lifespan.

Many of us grew up loving trees, learning their names, climbing them, eating their produce, observing their habit of changing with the seasons and watching them as they became playthings of the wind.

Trees are instrumental to the survival of a wide variety of plant and animal life, including humans. They are natural providers that we should revere and protect as they work to sustain us.

What would we humans do without the oxygen that trees supply or the fruits, nuts and other products they provide for our consumption? Animals enjoy the same products as humans, along with bark, leaves, roots, water and habitat.

We take for granted the timber for construction and paper and hundreds of other products from trees that are sacrificed for human use.

Conservationists know that trees conserve water, take in carbon dioxide, prevent water pollution and erosion, support wildlife, preserve soil, improve air quality and use their power to combat climate change.

We often ignore the economic opportunity and advantages trees provide. Thousands of people make a living by harvesting, planting and maintaining trees. Trees actually raise real estate value in rural and urban settings, and they are instrumental in lowering utility bills during peak air conditioning use.

Trees make huge contributions to comfort and aesthetics. The breathtaking beauty of our national cherry trees along the Potomac in Washington, or the amazing sight of a forest, large or small, is among the greatest pleasures that we humans enjoy, and the canopy over the forest floor shelters a world of intrigue and study for professional and amateur botanists and zoologists.

It is a well known fact that patients who view trees outside a hospital window heal better. Now do we understand why it is common to see an arboretum for patient and public viewing on hospital grounds?

Trees shield ultraviolet rays, provide shade and make pleasant sounds when a little breeze blows in. Trees block unpleasant views in town and country. They also serve as a calming effect to reduce violence and reduce fear, an advantage most of us rarely think about.

According to numerous scientific sources, forests have a kind of intelligence that most of us are unaware of. Scientists report that they believe a forest that is infected with diseases or is infested with pests can send chemical warnings through roots to a neighboring forest to produce chemicals that repel the same disease or pest. Trees are a natural wonder.

Scientists have identified trees that are thousands of years old, trees that have survived untold hardships through the years, yet they continue to provide and work for the life on our planet.

We complain about tree pollen that irritates us and leaves that have to be raked, but we know that trees have power to do things we cannot do. Let us not call them hard names.

Writers and thinkers like to comment on the significance of trees.

Thomas Fuller wrote, “He that plants trees loves others besides himself.”

An unknown tree lover suggested, “Keep a green tree in your heart, and perhaps a singing bird will come.”

Martin Luther contributed this tree wisdom: “For in the true nature of things, if we rightly consider, every tree is far more glorious than if it were made of gold and silver.”

So what are trees? They are workhorses, homes, sustainers, providers, natural art, advocates and friends. Let us continue to plant them, protect them and enjoy their beauty. Now is the time to look at trees through a window or go outside and experience them in person.

There is nothing wrong with talking to trees or giving them a big hug. They are our friends.

Sanda Baucom Hight is retired from Wilson County Schools after serving as an English teacher and is currently a substitute teacher in Wilson County. Her column focuses on the charms of home, school and country life. Email her at srbhight8@gmail.com.