Jones County, NC – Just a few things we do say to ourselves and the world: I believe in the future. There is getting married. Taking that public step into the future expands our time horizon for better or worse. There is the momentous decision to have a child. And, less self-centered, there is planting a tree. This simple, easy to repeat act, is based on the hopeful assumption that life will go on. Planting a tree projects us in a positive way into the unknown future. It is a way to reach out through time to give a gift to the next generation and beyond, a gift of beauty, shade, cleaner air and water.
This summer with my grandchildren I lay flat on the ground looking up at the trees and the sky. It was a dizzying perspective that I had completely forgotten-- like being the camera in some National Geographic trick photograph. The trees were towering, moving in the wind, vastly complicated. Awesome. The idea came to me that only trees can embody a vigorous, living, great age without suffering decrepitude or decay. They just get bigger and stronger. Their giant scale of beauty, full of life, color, and endless motion were impossible to take in. All we could say was "Wow!"
A dear neighbor taught me to say, "Deo volente,"-- God willing whenever I planted anything. These two ancient words make everyday yard work both humbling and exalting. I try to always remember to say it.
I have planted many trees over the years. Trees from local nurseries, trees from catalogues, trees I grew from seeds, and hundreds of seedling from the North Carolina Forestry service. Their trees come in lot of one hundred, and it is not easy to get rid of 100 persimmon trees when you only wanted five!
Trees grow really fast in eastern North Carolina. I have had the enormous satisfactions of sitting in the shade of a tulip poplar tree I planted 15 years ago. I count my blessings that I got to stay in one place to see it grow tall and graceful. To think that something I once carried myself is now 50 feet tall seems like a miracle, which of course it is.
Here near the coast we are favored with the majestic presence of centuries old live oaks. You have seen these evergreen behemoths on the courthouse lawn down in Beaufort with their barrel sized branches bending to the ground. They are remnants of the original maritime forest and were growing when European first came here, There are rumors of uncut virgin live oaks and cypresses in the Croatan forest..
I am the Jenny Appleseed of live oaks. I pocket acorns from likely trees and later push them into the sand dunes at the beach, the vacant lot, and the edges of woodlands: any where a tree might have a chance. There are many trees that I have known since they were sprouts. I feel ridiculously proud of them.
This scattered forest is my gift and legacy to the future which I hope will value trees. Please try this at home. Mighty oaks from tiny acorns grow.
This scattered forest is the living embodiment of my belief in a future deo volente that will value trees.