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My Understanding with The Trees: Reflections on Earth Day

The longer I live with my yard, the more I appreciate Francis’ understanding of creation as Brother and Sister. Until I received the immeasurable gift of a tiny urban woodland on which my house was built, I didn’t really understand for instance, the mutuality between humans and trees.

Now, I know there have been some fabulous (and spiritual) books written in recent years about the hidden lives of trees and their ability to communicate with one another. Their words strike such a deep chord in me. But that isn’t what I’m talking about. I’m thinking about an implicit understanding that seems to have developed between me and the trees that live in my yard. Over the last 20 years, with the cooperation of the trees, I have built up the soil in my yard and reclaimed, from invasive species, space for native plants.

It sounds a little woo woo, to speak of implicit understandings with trees, but I have a sense that part of my relationship with Sister Mother Earth is care for my trees, conscientiously stewarding their pruning and watering, protecting them from disrespectful individuals who suggest they stand in the way of “progress.”

Maybe I’ve read too many novels about the settlement of the North American continent by Europeans. There’s a reason Portland’s nickname is “Stumptown.” The trees in the Pacific Northwest were so immense when the Europeans arrived that they were considered an enemy to eradicate in the name of grazing lands and field crops. The stumps of those giants were so large in some places, they became temporary housing for humans.

Of necessity, and because of the trees at my house, I’ve focused on spring wildflowers in my landscaping. There was a 2’ x 6’ strip of what struggled to be a plot of grass when I moved in, while the rest of the sloped lot had been allowed to do whatever it wanted. Invasive plants had pushed out any pretense of native plantings. What might have been landscaping shrubs had been abandoned to wildness. It was a mess.

For 20 years, I’ve replaced the invasives with irrepressible native plants. Doing so has been an act of worship for me. Sister Mother Earth has cooperated with me to give praise to our mutual Creator, who surely must laugh for joy at my springtime yard.

Here is a photo album of my favorite flowers.

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