When School Days End, Our Love of Trees Continues

photo of community tree planting

May and June are upon us, and for many, that means graduation, whether it be from high school, college or even pre-school (always adorable!). It’s a time to celebrate accomplishments and to look forward to new chapters in our lives.

(Okay…because this is an article for the Healthy Trees, Healthy Live blog, I’d be remiss if I didn’t take time to list of some of the more basic – albeit often underacknowledged – ways that trees play a role in education, from the wood they provide to build schools to woodchips on playgrounds to the paper used in classes and for printing books – and even that diploma you worked so hard to earn. And those are just some more obvious uses!)

Keep in mind that outside of school days, trees contribute far more than just paper and wood products to our lives. I bet wherever you are, trees make your lives better. Here are a few that come to mind:

Recreation. This is an easy one. Most of us who like to be outside have an appreciation for trees (okay, maybe not the Beach Only folks). Hiking, biking, riding, going for a swim at the local pond…pretty much whatever you do outside is made better because of the trees that surround us.

A healthier planet. Forest ecosystems clean our air and water, which is good not only for humans but also for wildlife – not just deer and bear, but also butterflies, salamanders, bunnies, bobcat and more. This, of course, links right back to recreation, because healthy ecosystems are far more enjoyable places to spend time.

Where we live. Of course, trees contribute to the physical nature of buildings by providing lumber, paper, insulation and heating, but they also improve the settings of our homes. Whether you live deep in the woods, on a manicured suburban lot or within a city that promotes urban forestry, trees are an important part of your home’s surroundings. They help make your home yours.

Jobs. Sure, this point is more business-like than the others, but forestry and the forest products industry provide a wide range of solid jobs from logger to landscaper, scientist to surveyor – and more. They’re key elements to having a healthy economy.

Creativity. Quick…can you think of a painting or photo that you love with trees in it? A poem? A song? I bet you can. Trees and forested landscapes have provided artistic inspiration for centuries, likely because most of us find it easy to connect to them in ways that make us want to express ourselves and preserve these experiences in ways we can revisit later.

Physical and mental health. You’re most likely reading this on some sort of electronic device. PUT IT DOWN AND GO OUTSIDE (but wait until you finish reading this, please!). Start moving and look around you. Notice the little things. What is that bird you hear signing? How old is that tree? Can you ID that animal track? What will the view be once you go around the next bend on the trail? Feel your connectedness with the ground, the air and all that’s around you. You’re bound to feel stronger in your mind, body and spirit.

Graduations are major touchstones in our lives. This year, celebrate the Pomp and Circumstance that trees provide, whether you have a beloved solo specimen in your yard or you can take in the symphony that is a mixed-woods forest. Enjoy them and all that they provide you. Remember to take time to slow down, open your eyes, listen with your ears and with your heart. And your brain, too – after all, you’ve graduated!

Photo credit: N.H. Division of Forests & Lands