icon caret-left icon caret-right instagram pinterest linkedin facebook twitter goodreads question-circle facebook circle twitter circle linkedin circle instagram circle goodreads circle pinterest circle


Touched by a Tree

One of the things I enjoy is spending time in my front and back yards being around the trees. I don't have many trees, just a few spruce and juniper trees. The neighbor's elm would like to add some elm trees to my yard, but that's not going to happen.


One of the many good things about my dog is that she likes to eat baby elms. When I find an elm sprout, I pull it up, and my dog dives into it like it's a gourmet meal.


Trees have a calming effect on me. That calmness makes me want to spend more time outside with them. Other people tell me they like to be around trees for the same reason.


There's a trend on TikTok lately in which people take pictures of themselves standing by a tree. They ask the tree to touch their shoulder, and they have the most amazed looks on their faces when they say the tree actually did move one of its branches and tap them on the shoulder.


I tried that once, and nothing happened. But it's an intriguing idea to think that a tree might actually hear and understand what we ask it to do.


For me, the peace of mind I get while being near trees and the inspiring thoughts that sometimes come when I'm calm enough to hear them are priceless. Instead of tapping my shoulder, trees are tapping my mind and touching my heart.


When I'm outside admiring one of my trees, I find myself in a meditative state. Meditation can be difficult if I sit somewhere and try to focus on my breathing. For me, it's easier to get into a meditative state when I'm enjoying the beauty of the trees around me. All my worries and concerns fall away for a few moments as I think of nothing but the trees.


When you're in a peaceful state of mind around trees, it might be fun to stand close to one and ask it to touch your shoulder. It would be even more interesting if you have a camera toting friend with you. If your friend gets a picture of the tree touching your shoulder, you could put it on TikTok and join others who have been amazed when they've been touched by a tree.

Be the first to comment

Special Trees Inspire Hope that World Peace Is Possible

When Jane Goodall thinks of hope, she thinks about three trees that suffered terribly but survived near impossible odds.


Goodall is best known for her study of the social and family life of chimpanzees. At first, she thought they were kinder than humans until she discovered that they can be aggressive and violent. She saw some females kill the young of other females in their group to maintain their dominance.


In spite of all the violence, prejudice, greed and racism in the world, Goodall has never given up on hope. She and Douglas Abrams with Gail Hudson wrote about hope in The Book of Hope: A Survival Guide for Trying Times. An article about the book appeared in the March/April 2022 issue of Reader's Digest.


Goodall calls hope a crucial survival trait. When she thinks about hope, she remembers meeting two trees that survived impossible odds.


She was in New York City on Sept. 11, 2001, when terrorists killed so many people. Ten years later, she met a Callery pear tree that was at the site of the twin towers when they collapsed on 9/11. It was discovered one month after the event. The tree had been crushed between two blocks of cement.


Only half of the trunk remained, and it was charred black. Its roots were broken, and there was only one living branch. Rebecca Clough, the woman who found it, pleaded for the tree to be given a chance. It found a home in a Bronx nursery, where, over time and with much effort, it was nourished back to health. Once it was strong enough, the tree was transplanted in the 9/11 Memorial & Museum, where every spring its bright blossoms move people to tears.


Goodall met another amazing tree in Nagasaki, Japan. It is one of two 500-year-old camphor trees that survived after the second atomic bomb was dropped at the end of World War II. In the temperature as hot as the sun produced by the nuclear explosion, nothing was expected to survive. But somehow these two trees clung to life.


They were mutilated. Only the lower halves of the trunks were there. Most of the branches were gone, and no leaves remained. People took Goodall to see one of those trees. It's now quite large. Through many cracks in the trunk, visitors can see that it's all black inside. Even so, every spring the tree sprouts new leaves.


If those trees could survive such brutality, then there is hope for all of us, Goodall believes. That's one reason why she participated in the 2021 United Nations International Day of Peace in New York City.


Each year the UN International Day of Peace is observed around the world on Sept. 21. The United Nations calls on everyone to lay down their weapons on that day and reaffirm their commitment to live in harmony. Theme for the 2022 UN International Day of Peace is "End Racism. Build Peace."


For Goodall, the Survivor Tree and the two camphor trees represent the hope that world peace is possible.

Be the first to comment

Some Cities Hire Arborists

Some cities hire arborists to oversee the tree population. Durango, Colorado is one of those cities. Located in the southwest corner of the state, Durango is surrounded by mountains, rivers, and beautiful terrain.


The city takes pride in its trees. Even though the soil in Southwest Colorado isn't as easy to grow trees in as some places around the nation, Durango supports almost 12,000 trees in a city where over 19,000 people live.


The Durango Herald does a good job of keeping people informed about what's going on in and near the city. Herald staff writer Christian Burney wrote an interesting article in the August 5, 2022 issue about the city's arborist, Matt Besecker. He keeps tabs on all the trees, what kinds they are, and where they're located. There are lots of different varieties, from chestnuts and American elms to cottonwoods, ponderosa pines, and a host of other species.


There are lots of things to think about when taking care of trees in a city surrounded by mountains, where wild animals roam. That's a big reason why the city doesn't plant fruit-bearing trees. The fruit would attract bears and deer into town, and that could cause significant problems. Few people want to encounter a bear while they're shopping at the local supermarket or when they're taking a stroll down a city street with their family.


Instead of fruit-bearing trees, the city plants trees such as crab apples and Krauter Vesuvius plums. They are bred not to produce fruit, but they do have pretty flowers.


Besecker works with a crew of city employees to promote tree planting. The city has a 50/50 cost sharing program that lets residents help with planting trees. In that arrangement, the tree is planted somewhere on the person's property that is also in a city-owned public right of way. The  city and the land owner each pay for half the cost of the tree. The city provides the labor to install the tree, and the land owner takes care of it by watering it.


The city tries to plant a variety of different trees so that if one type of tree is damaged by disease, other trees will remain healthy. Besecker and his crew spend a lot of time maintaining all the trees in town. They sometimes have to remove sick or dead ones. Some trees remain healthy for many years, including the city's oldest tree, a ponderosa pine that's about 200 years old.


I'm not sure how common it is for cities to hire arborists to take care of their trees, but I think it's a great idea.

Be the first to comment

Trees Keep Cities Cooler

Several trees surround homes in a neighborhood.
Trees in a city neighborhood

While riding a bicycle with a small weather station attached to it in 2016, Carly Ziter of Concordia University gathered some interesting facts about trees in city neighborhoods. She rode her bike around Madison, Wisconsin to collect a massive amount of data.


Those facts were carefully analyzed and studied by a team working with Ziter, and they came up with an interesting conclusion. They discovered that if trees cover 40 percent of a city neighborhood, those trees will provide maximum cooling benefits.


The study was published in the journal, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. An article about the study written by Matt Hickman appeared in an April 1, 2019 Treehugger newsletter. Another one by Lloyd Alter appeared in the July 25, 2022 Treehugger newsletter. If you would like to know more about trees and many interesting facts about nature and gardens, go to www.treehugger.com and check out the interesting website. It's full of valuable information.


I can imagine Ziter riding around on her bicycle with a weather station as she collected all that data. She estimates she rode 400 to 500 miles around Madison, covering ten areas of the city many times during different hours of the day. That data showed that there are great economic benefits to having many areas in the city with a 40 percent tree coverage. The costs of removing pollution and the energy it takes to run air conditioners and other cooling devices are reduced. That can save many millions of dollars.


The study pointed out that planting trees just anywhere isn't always the best answer. Instead, Ziter suggested looking at areas that need a few more trees to help them reach the 40 percent coverage.


The trees promote cooling by providing shade and by a process called evapotranspiration. That process happens when the rays of the sun shine on the canopies of trees. It helps water to evaporate from leaves and cool them down. As a result, it takes less energy to warm the air.


I'm not sure what percent of tree coverage is in my city neighborhood, but I'm pretty sure it's less than 40 percent. My city is one of those that might benefit from having more trees. If trees cool the air, then people wouldn't have to use up quite so much electricity running air conditioners. If that would shave off even a few dollars from my electricity bill, it would be worth it!

Be the first to comment

Tree Projects Improve the Land and People's Lives

I am heartened when I read in different publications how people are finding healthy, nurturing ways to work with trees. Projects in Boulder, Colorado and in Honduras are two examples of those projects.


Charred trees ground to mulch are being used to stabilize a forest that burned in 2020 near Boulder, Colorado. The mulch was spread by helicopter over the foothills where dead trees stand like blackened sticks. Purpose of the mulch is to help new vegetation take root.


It also may prevent soil erosion. That's especially important because erosion can damage nearby lakes and streams. A large two-page picture of mulch being dropped on the foothills appears on pages 68 and 69 of Saving Forests, a special May 2022 issue of the National Geographic.


In El Triunfo, Honduras, residents are learning to grow and harvest cashew trees as they adjust to the harsh realities of living within what is known as the dry corridor. In that corridor, flooding or no rain at all create huge problems for people who try to grow corn and other traditional produce such as beans. The dry corridor is part of Central America that also includes parts of El Salvador, Nicaragua, Guatemala and Costa Rica.


In a recent Guardian Weekly, Sarah Johnson wrote an article about the experience of El Triunfo resident Lucia Alvarez who struggled to survive by growing corn. Drought and unpredictable rains often ruined her corn crop.


With training from the World Food Programme (WFP), Lucia and others in El Triunfo learned how to work with cashew trees. The trees already grew in the area, but people didn't know how to use their potential.


WFP is a United Nations program that was the 2020 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate. Its humanitarian work saves lives in emergencies. It also uses food assistance to promote peace, stability and prosperity for people recovering from conflict, disasters, and climate change challenges.


As a result of WFP's help, many people in the El Triunfo region are starting to grow and harvest cashew trees, which don't need much water. The trees also improve the soil's condition.


The people there have learned how to harvest cashew apples containing the nuts. They work with other organizations to do all that's required to bring the ready-to-eat cashews to market. One company in El Triunfo has learned to do every step of the entire process on its own.


Because they learned to work with cashew trees, people of El Triunfo have the financial resources to buy their own land and animals and to educate their children. They are prospering at home.

Be the first to comment

One Solution to Wildfires


Devastating wildfires have become a common, painful global reality. In Australia, a cooperative effort between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people has significantly reduced that problem.


Many Indigenous Australians have been comfortable with fire since they were children. They know how to manage the land by burning vegetation during the right time of year. But many of them moved away from their land after colonization occurred, according to an article in a National Geographic special issue, Saving Forests, published in May 2022.


Beginning in the 1970s, many Indigenous Australians became part of a homelands movement that brought them home, where they noticed the make-up of plants and animals had changed. Kylie Stevenson wrote in the National Geographic article, "Fighting Fire with Fire," that "non-native weeds and feral animals, such as cats and buffalo, had moved in; some native animals, such as emus, were scarcer; ancient bim (rock art) sites were being damaged by buffalo and fire; and the health of monsoon rainforests, floodplains, and the savanna was deteriorating."


The anbinik forests were also suffering. These culturally and ecologically significant trees had been used for everything from antiseptics to fighting sticks. When Indigenous Australians had cared for the land they'd kept it healthy by doing carefully planned burns during the early dry season when it was cooler and the land held more moisture. Their efforts kept the fire-prone tropical savanna healthy.


In an alliance of trust and respect, Aboriginal people in Arnhem Land in northern Australia cooperated with non-Aboriginal people to reinstate ancient practices regarding lighting strategic fires in the early dry season and focusing on firefighting during the late dry season. That plan "limits wildfires, protecting forests and reducing the overall amount of smoke," wrote Stevenson. "The emissions avoided are sold as credits."


The project started in 2006 in western Arnhem Land, Stevenson explained, as "the world's first savanna-burning carbon-abatement project." The liquefied natural gas facility in Darwin supported the plan partly because it was required to offset its emissions. One way it could do that was to buy credits that came from the successful reduction of wildfire, which reduced emissions. Australia's carbon market lets "polluters buy credits representing an amount of greenhouse gases kept out of the atmosphere," Stevenson wrote.


Indigenous Australians run about 80 such projects in northern Australia. They are so successful that they have generated revenue of about $53 million annually. Not only have the wildfires reduced dramatically, but vegetation is benefiting, and many native animals are returning to the land. The money allows improved land management activities as well as the construction of community schools so children don't have to leave home to be educated.


Trusting indigenous know-how could work globally. Australians are showing the world how it can be done.

Be the first to comment

Meg Lowman, Champion of Forests

Looking high up into the cottonwood helps you see its lofty reach into the sky.
Looking high up into a cottonwood tree.

Thanks to the work of biologist and author Meg Lowman, it is possible to walk on canopies high up in trees. She has pioneered forest canopy research and has built canopy walkways to help raise the awareness of the vital role forests play. Those canopies also help developing nations create jobs through tree canopy tourism.


Forest canopy research involves studying flora and fauna in the treetops of tropical forests. Those forest canopies provide homes and food sources for many species of life, including insects and plants. Lowman learned that half of our terrestrial biodiversity lives in the canopy. Biodiversity refers to the variety of life in the world or in a certain area.


Born in Elmira, New York on Dec. 23, 1953, Lowman gained an international reputation for helping people understand the importance of forests. The Wall Street Journal once called her the Einstein of treetops.


She has used slingshot-fired ropes, hot air balloons with sleds, canopy cranes and canopy walkways to build canopies in the trees. Those canopies help people see forests from a different point of view. In so doing, she pioneered the science of canopy ecology. In more than 30 years of building walkways in treetops, she has come to understand that changes or damage to any species in the canopy or elsewhere can cause an imbalance in the entire ecosystem. The result of that change or damage can have long-term ecological implications.


She calls herself an arbornaut, a treetop explorer. She is a National Geographic explorer, and the National Geographic Society has funded her work since 1998. She has authored several books and more than 100 articles in peer-reviewed scientific publications. Among her books is Life in the Treetops: Adventures of a Woman in Field Biology. In the book, she describes the mysteries of the treetops, including their animal and plant inhabitants. She also talks about the challenges of juggling her field biologist life with marriage, motherhood, and being a single parent.


She is the director of global initiatives and senior scientist for plant conservation at the California Academy of Sciences. She co-founded the Tree Foundation and is still its executive director. It promotes education about forests. You can find out more about the organization at https://treefoundation.org.


She has developed an international network, and with her passion for science she is a role model for women and minorities in science. You can learn more about this amazing woman at https://canopymeg.com.

Be the first to comment

When Forest Fires Blaze, How Can We Help?

Devastating forest fires are sweeping parts of New Mexico where I live, and I've wondered what I can do to help. Other states are impacted too.


I'm not a fire fighter. The smoke would make it hard for me to breathe, and I can't carry heavy equipment or dig fire lines. Yet, I am in awe of fire fighters who put their lives on the line to save everything threatened by wildfires. Those fires are often harder to fight because of gusty spring winds and drought conditions.


Firefighters have been fighting huge fires for many weeks that continue to gobble up trees and everything in their wake, including people's homes and businesses. Several national forests in my state are barring visitors because of extreme fire danger.


National news has made the Hermits Peak/Calf Canyon fire east of Santa Fe a familiar name. As of this morning, the fire had burned over 303,000 acres and was 34 percent contained. But hot, dry, windy conditions today made the fire even more difficult to battle.


More than 2,100 fire personnel are engaged in battling the Hermits Peak/Calf Canyon flames. To date, it is the largest fire in New Mexico's history.


Many of us watch the news, read the newspapers, and wonder what we can do to help. As I think about what I can do, I realize I can't fight the fire myself. But I can be very aware of fire danger, especially in drought conditions. That means not starting campfires anywhere. If one is absolutely needed, completely extinguish it so it has no chance of flaring up later.


If I see enterprising children and adults having lemonade stands or other events to raise money for fire fighters, I can buy their lemonade and donate money to help them meet their goal. I can adopt a local fire station or volunteer fire department, find out what the firefighters need, and contribute in my small way to help meet that need. I may be able to do only one of those things, but every effort helps.


So many trees are destroyed in a fire. I can donate money to help organizations that promote planting trees. I may only be able to donate $10 or $15, but every donation helps. And it lets that organization know its efforts are valued.


There are so many ways we can assist fire fighters without fighting the fire ourselves. And there are so many ways we can help in the effort to plant more trees to replace some of the ones destroyed by fires. As you look around to see what else you might do to help, you will come up with other ways of making a positive difference.


Thank goodness for our brave firefighters. And thank goodness for all the caring citizens, like you, who do their best to help out. Together we can make a positive difference.

Be the first to comment

The Gift of Trees

Huge, tall and rounded pine tree stands by entrance to Animas Valley Mall in Farmington, NM
Pine tree at Animas Valley Mall in Farmington, NM.

The next time you're driving along a busy street through town, notice the nearby trees. They line sidewalks, provide shade in parking lots, and add beauty to people's yards.


It can be hard to notice them when you're creeping through heavy traffic, worried about getting to work on time, picking up your child from piano lessons, or making it to a doctor's appointment. Those frustrating, irritating, stressful moments are sometimes the best time to notice trees.


The shopping mall in my town has a lot of trees. They provide boundaries between roadways and business parking lots. They make certain parking spots look inviting because they protect vehicles from the hot sun. Their decorative leaves lace the air with intricate designs. Blossoming trees perfume the air and splash color with artistic flair.


You may only have a second to notice a tall, majestic pine tree spreading its branches before the traffic light turns green. You press the gas pedal as your vehicle springs forward, never noticing pine cones that decorate grass around the tree.


Your eyes may barely catch the small stately tree with leaves that grace the sky like a finely embroidered shawl. In your quest to get to your destination on time, you will pass dozens, even hundreds of trees, all filling the sky line with their own unique beauty.


What would we do without trees? We hardly think about them or about the care it takes to keep them healthy. Once in a long while we might catch a glimpse of lovely trees along the sidewalk as we park our car and hurry into the grocery store.


Trees are a constant gift to us. When we notice them, our lives feel a little richer and a bit less stressed.

Be the first to comment

Let Nature Tune Up Your Body and Brain

Different kinds of trees grow near each other in this rural setting.
Trees flourish in a rural area.

Nature can help your brain and your body stay healthier. You can take a hike into the mountains or anywhere else in nature to give your brain and body a tune-up.


Or you can do something a little less time consuming and, basically, cost free. Find a tree near where you live. It might be a tree in your yard, in your neighborhood, or in a community park.


Spend a little time walking near the tree, sitting under its branches, or admiring it as you stroll through the park or neighborhood. When you do that, notice what begins to happen to your body and your brain. Does your body start to relax? Does your brain quit going a hundred miles an hour and begin to slow down?


Do you feel less stressed? Are your worries starting to fade? You might feel more alert. Maybe you sense a surge of creativity flooding your mind and body. As you start to relax, you may discover you can let go of those angry, upset, or irritated thoughts about a person or situation.


By the time you've spent 15 or 20 minutes around those trees, you may feel like you have a lot more energy. It's amazing how good we can feel when we let go of unhealthy thoughts that weigh us down. It takes a lot of energy to carry around so much weight!


There are many places where you can learn more about the benefits of being in nature and about getting into a meditative state. One of those places is in Mindful Magazine, which is packed full of ideas for getting healthier by learning to mindfully meditate in different ways. You can get it on-line or as a colorful  magazine postal mailed to your home.


Have fun spending a little time among trees in the next few days. You may be surprised how much better you feel afterwards.

Be the first to comment