This Arbor day I had an opportunity to go to Nebraska City and discovered the heart of Arbor day. It is the home of the Arbor day Foundation and more importantly the home of Arbor day founder, J. Sterling Morton. I was very impressed with the ethic and energy that surrounds Arbor Day in this part of Nebraska. They celebrate Arbor Day with incredible zeal, parades, festivals, and awards. As I flew over, the fruits of their labor is seen in forestland that covers much of the area. During the awards ceremony, it was very inspiring to hear the impacts of tree planting from around North America whether it be the Return to Work Green Jobs Program in Delaware where planting trees provides urban forestry skills and hope to ex-offenders or the work of the work of the American Chestnut Foundation restoring a species and creating public awareness of a valuable template for restoration of other species. The Arbor Day Foundation finds its roots in one person, founder and CEO, John Rosenow, who 42 years ago started with the simple idea of spreading the energy of the area's passion for Arbor Day to a National Level and today does an incredible job of keeping the message alive through their many programs. The work is well summarized in J. Sterling Morton's quote from over 150 years ago, "Each generation takes the earth as trustee."
Spring overwhelms me. I attribute this to trees coming out of dormancy with such vibrancy. It is difficult not to notice the curtain of green envelop you, particularly on wooded lots. The green is not just overwhelming in color, but also in volume. Once wide open views become views into the color green and your vista contracts from expanse to the tree nearest to you. In the southeast, we are often exposed to this shocking transition in our surroundings as the Southeast has many, many, deciduous trees. This in opposition to the wide open vistas I grew up with in the West, so it is not surprising that my initial reaction to the spring tree phenomena is one of being closed in upon. However, having lived in the southeast for 20 years, I have been able to temper this initial reaction with one of wonder. The wonder of green, of tree's abilities to spring forth such massive amounts of energy, and simply the wonder of trees. The contraction also has the affect of turning your spirit back towards you, creating a feeling of introspection. Trees shade us, but also impose their wills into the space around us in the form of leaves and green. It is as if a waterfall of green spouts out of nowhere and immerses you into it as if you were swimming in a lake. I take this annual rite for what it is, and try to swim and splash within it without the panic of losing the vista around me.
A good friend recently moved from San Francisco to Woodbury, TN. He posted the following comment with the photo in this blog. "People often inquire. Tennessee?? From San Francisco?? How? Why? Was that hard?? No aside from the initial culture shock it was easy as both have natural beauty and magic beyond comparison but equal in measure. But at the end if the day it was the color green, and its many layers that brought me to the wondrous place I now call home."
This got me thinking about the color green and its importance in our life. We need to incorporate more green and its many layers within the urban environment. New research finds that people who live in urban areas with more green space tend to report greater well-being than city dwellers who don’t have parks, trees, or other green space nearby.
The power of green. In traditional Chinese medicine spring is the wood element which is associated with the liver and the color green. Breathe the green in with each inhalation right to liver and exhale any stagnant qi from the liver. Use your intention and your visualization for this powerful wood element longevity practice.
Green is an important part of the human experience. The words green and space when put together take on greater meaning when you first contemplate their meaning separately and then put them back together. Green space needs to be treasured, whether it be the Black Forest or the pocket park in front of your office. In a recent interview with Jenny Price, Los Angeles Urban Ranger and Phd. in environmental History, she talks about inhabiting nature with the urban environment opposed to “greener-than-thou” form of preachy consumerism that does not encourage real change nor help those most in need. She is a big believer in nature not equaling pristine, but more easily attainable nature in our backyards, the urban creek, or a street tree.
The purpose of Urban Forestry is to encourage tree health and tree planting in the urban environment. Engage the next urban tree you encounter, breathe it in, let the green be part of you and experience the exchange that nature through the color green can give you.
photo by Todd Lancaster
Urban trees and green infrastructure have new competition. The concept of complete streets is to provide access and travel for all users, including pedestrians, bicyclist, motorist and public transport users of all ages and abilities. This movement has become very strong over the last few years. In my small town of Decatur, GA several streets have already been redesigned with complete streets in mind (see photo below). Yesterday I attended a bicycle rally at the capitol in Atlanta, GA where people chanted "complete streets" over and over again. The problem is that trees are rarely considered as part of the complete street despite many studies that outline the benefits of trees as a source to slow traffic and off set excessive storm water via green infrastructure. After placing the recreational pathway, sidewalk, cars, parking, and bike lanes, there is little room for trees. Are complete streets and trees incompatible? Decent overstory trees need the space to grow. Solutions might include bulb outs in place of a parking places and bridging roots under the sidewalks. All the same, it is important to design complete streets with trees in mind, otherwise we will end up with highways of imperviousness that provide no vertical element to slow traffic and provide little shade.
On September 2, 1945, Japan officially admitted its defeat during a surrender ceremony aboard the USS Missouri. Almost 70 years later, we’d like to take a moment to recognize the United States and Allied victory with the official tree of World War II: Dwight D. Eisenhower Green Ash.
The first Eisenhower Green Ash was planted at the French Embassy in Washington D.C. in 2000. As suggested by its name, the tree honors Dwight D. Eisenhower, the U.S president who planned and supervised one of the most important Allied forces attack, the Normandy invasion. The Eisenhower green ash in Washington was grown from seeds of a tree located outside of Denison, Tx., Eisenhower’s hometown. Today, the 20 foot tree weighs more than three tons.
Inspired by the planting at the French Embassy, other green ashes have been planted around the country at various sites commemorating WWII veterans.
(Dwight D. Eisenhower Green Ash planted in Chambersburg, Penn., by Veterans of Foreign Wars, Post 1599. Photo credit: http://www.hmdb.org/ )
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