Teach your Children (with apologies to Crosby, Stills and Nash)

Recently, my dear 84-year-old mother sent me a birthday card with her usual signature, “M.E.”  It’s a curious thing, since her real initials are B.C. She has been signing her notes, cards and letters to her children (and now grandchildren) that way since the 70’s.  I remember explaining this oddity to my husband, and later my daughters. We grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, a progressive region of California then and now. In 1968, my mother decided that we would recycle, stop using printed paper towels, and we would do our part to “Save the Earth.” We embraced the “Ecology Now” movement at our home. From that, my sister and I began to call our Mom, “Mother Earth.” She embraced it, and still does today, hence the initials.

For my siblings and me, our own “Mother Earth” was our nature enthusiast. She let me bring snakes into the garage, allowed me the opportunity to raise tadpoles from the creek in a salad bowl on the kitchen counter, and taught me how to capture ladybugs and keep them in jars. As a family, we camped among the redwoods of Northern California, along rivers and creeks with the Sycamores and Oaks, and at the beach with the windblown Monterey pines. In our garden orchards, we grew peaches, pears, nectarines and plums, all in the name of clean living and no pesticides. It is no wonder that my siblings and I enjoy nature the way we do as adults.

Later, when I became a mom, I knew that I wanted to be like my own mother and impart the wisdom of the earth to my children. And for my two daughters, they had no choice. It was all about trees. They hiked the Sierras and the Rockies learning about what grows at different elevations. They spent Saturday mornings pulling shovels out of my truck, helping me get ready for community tree events. On the carpools home from school, they enthusiastically pointed out the bad pruning work along our route. My now-grown children can plant a tree correctly and teach others to do the same. They can go to a nursery and pick out the right tree, for the right place, to plant at the right time. They understand the consequences of topping and poor tree care. They get the value of trees to communities because they have heard about it relentlessly. (I am not sorry, Katy and Mary!) I am honored by their love of all things bark, wood, and leaves.

But here is the truth; it doesn’t matter if you are celebrating Mother’s Day on May 13 or not. As people who love trees and understand their value to communities, it is our obligation to pass on our knowledge not only to our children, (if we indeed are parents), but also to those that don’t know of the importance of trees to our future. We are the teachers of nature at this time. My teacher happened to be my mother. Yours may have been someone else significant in your life. Take the time to honor them, and impart the importance of nature, and especially trees, to others. Happy Mother’s Day!

Dana Karcher is an ISA Certified Arborist, community volunteer, and all-around nature enthusiast. She lives in Nebraska, where she manages the Alliance for Community Trees program at the Arbor Day Foundation. Most importantly, she is the mother of two tree lovers.

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