As I remember it, the first meltdown happened somewhere around 1993. I had been practicing hard, getting up at 4 a.m. to meditate before driving my daughter to early morning swim practice and then heading into a manual labor job that sucked up the next ten to twelve hours. Maybe it was exhaustion and not spiritual maturity that caused this: In the middle of a sitting, I started crying hard because I suddenly realized the enormity of the damage we are doing to the earth. Having no idea what to do with the grief, I went to my teacher. "Go plant a tree" was his response. If it's the last day of your life, plant a tree. If it isn't, plant a tree. If it's the last day of the earth's life, plant a tree.
So I did.
Most of us who throw ourselves into serious spiritual practice over a long period of time end up in the same place: heartbroken for the world. We see how utterly interconnected and interdependent we are. We realize that when the earth dies, we all die. A literal truth, this one. We understand that there is no place for standing by as the earth suffers.
I've been reading the Crosscut community discussion about Seattle's decreasing tree canopy with great interest. For me, though, it doesn't matter how many fewer trees there are. What matters is that there are fewer trees. Period.
I say let's plant trees. If Wangari Matthai can reforest Kenya, the least we can do is give Seattle back its canopy. The least I can do is plant a few trees down here in Eugene to make up for any similar loss. So, this summer a small plum tree was welcomed into the front yard. No fancy ritual. I just planted it. Then Bodhi the dog peed on it, formally welcoming it to the Larkin family. Ritual enough.
Next up, an Oklahoma Redbud. These are small deciduous understory trees with heart-shaped leaves. Can it get any better? They can grow as high as 18 feet untrimmed. In early spring, while everything else is still asleep, tiny clusters of red-wine, pea-like flowers bloom profusely in the branches and trunks, reminding the rest of us that spring is coming — a good reminder to have after months of winter rain. Redbud leaves start out as a soft pink and then gradually morph into a glossy, rich green. As an additional offering, redbuds have fall colors that range from orange to purple. How can we not plant these beauties?After the redbud, the yard will be full. I'll have to watch for other places in the neighborhood that could use some trees, especially places where there will be water. Just in case, I'll choose trees that don't need much, trees like the maples. Red Sunset could work. So could Raymond Ash, a tree that grows fast and can thrive even as it is neglected. (Read: not watered.) When a vacant spot shows itself, if it is in someone's yard I'll ask if they would consider letting me plant a tree for them. So far, nobody has turned me down when I've asked to plant flowers or shrubs along borders and such. I'm optimistic enough to think some folks will say yes. In more public places and places where abandoned buildings suggest a neglectful owner, I'll try to remember to ask for permission to plant. If my next blog comes to you care of the county jail, you'll know I was a little too eager. Praise be, my Lord, for our sister, Mother Earth, Who sustains and governs us And brings forth diverse fruits with Many-hued flowers and grass — St. Francis of Assisi