“Once there was a tree and she loved a little boy” is the first sentence in the children’s book: The Giving Tree. This story chronicles the lifelong relationship between a boy and a tree. From boyhood to his golden years, this tree selflessly gives all that it has to the boy: leaves, shade, a place to hide, and so on. I won’t spoil the ending for you. Each time I read this story by Shel Silverstein, I’m reminded of Arbor Day, a day that emphasizes the importance of trees in our lives.
National Arbor Day, founded by J. Sterling Morton in 1872, was April 25 this year, always the last Friday in April. South Carolina has been celebrating Arbor Day since 1934. It falls on the first Friday of December, which is today, Dec. 4. Arbor Day at the national and state level encourages us to plant and care for trees.
I first learned of The Giving Tree many Arbor Days ago when I was 12. Since then, I’ve read the story hundreds of times and celebrated many Arbor Days in many states. Most often these one-day tree-planting ceremonies were accompanied by speeches, poems, and songs acknowledging the importance of trees.
So although Arbor Day may only be celebrated once or twice a year, you don’t have to recognize the benefits of trees just twice a year. Daily I am reminded of the importance of trees in our lives.
Around our homes trees surround us with the seasonal beauty of their leaves and flowers, and their attractive bark and branch architecture. They offer privacy and hide unsightly views. Trees and shrubs provide food, shelter, and nesting for wildlife. Pollen and nectar for hummingbirds, butterflies, and bees are additional bonuses. Their roots keep soil in place and increase water movement into soil to reduce surface runoff from storms.
Trees save energy and money. The shade provided by deciduous trees planted on the southeastern and western sides of your home can reduce indoor temperatures by 8 to 10 degrees in the summer and reduce air conditioning costs up to 30 percent. In the winter, their leafless branches allow the sun to warm our homes.
When trees are used as a windbreak on the north side of a home to intercept cold winter winds, they can save from 10 to 50 percent in heating costs.
Trees in our towns and cities enliven our downtown areas. I could not imagine Main Street without its comforting canopies of green. Trees hide harsh scenery and soften the hard outlines of masonry, metal, and glass. Trees absorb carbon dioxide and in return replenish the environment with oxygen. According to the S.C. Forestry Commission, “trees absorb enough carbon dioxide over a year’s time to equal the amount you produce when you drive your car 26,000 miles.”
Like the boy in The Giving Tree, we depend on trees and cannot live without them. If you have existing trees, maintain them properly so your living investments will grow in value with each passing year. Consider planting a tree to give your neighborhood and community a living legacy. This simple, selfless act offers a multitude of benefits to all of us. It also says a lot about you. According to an English proverb: “He who plants a tree loves others besides himself.”
Bob Pololmski 2014 (c)