Historically Speaking: The trees are alive
From my father I was taught that trees are living things and that they are important in our everyday lives. (Of course, I did know that they were necessary to fill the wood box!) Every occasion he had, he would give a lesson on the importance of trees, and how to respect the trees around us every day.
There were many trees on our farm, but my favorites were the beautiful birches in the front yard. These white birches were so majestic, with their white trunks and bright green leaves. On a hot summer day, they provided wonderful refreshing shade and, too, gave a home to many birds. We were not allowed to peal off the paper-like white bark-only on downed, dead trees were we allowed to do this, and then we would make little books of birch bark, writing notes on the bark, or even fashioning little canoe pin-cushions for gifts. Birch bark also became a part of centerpieces and nature creations.
There were also many tall, lofty Norway pines in the yard, plus oak and silver-leafed birch and maple trees. The tall pines were great for climbing, with our father’s permission, as long as we did not in any way damage the trees. I liked to climb up on the sturdy branches, but it was hard for me to climb back down for some reason. Up in the high trees one could see far over the surrounding area, and look out on the roofs of the buildings and far across the river.
New young saplings were planted periodically to replace the trees that had died to had been damaged by wind and weather. Maple trees were many, and one fall we, together with some of our school friends, drilled holes in a group of maples (I guess we thought we’d get enough sap to make maple syrup) but when our father got home and saw what we’d done, it was the end of that venture, and we got severely lectured about the value of trees…you can be sure we didn’t do that again!
My father was a prankster, and even though he loved all trees, one time he tied a young Norway pine into a knot-years later as it became a big unusual sight, it was the object of much attention by all who saw it. He explained to us that it did not hurt the little tree, and that it would adapt to nature and could be a lesson in itself. I really didn’t understand his reasoning, but that was the only time that I can recall him doing such a thing.
We did not have any fruit trees in our yard, such as apple or pear trees, but there were June berry and pin cherry and choke cherry trees not far away on our acreage. As we picked berries during the summer season, we were always told to not damage the trees as we pulled the branches down to pick the berries. Again, the lesson was taught that trees are living things and need to be nurtured and cared for.
Along the shoreline of the river it was a common sight to see where the river’s current washed out under the shore, and this would result in trees along the edge of the river leaning over and eventually falling into the water, leaving their roots exposed and eventually dying. This was usually found at the turns and bends of the river, as the current was stronger when the path of the river made a turn. These “downed” trees were cleared away as soon as possible, and cut up for firewood.
Winters found my father cutting down dead or diseased trees on our land, and hauling them by toboggan to the woodpile area, where he cut them into right lengths for the stove, split them and then piled them into neat piles, ready for use the next winter. It took me quite some time to learn how to make a neat woodpile, especially to get the ends of the piles to be straight and solid. There was another lesson from my father, as he piled neat, straight solid rows of wood ready to be used in the kitchen range and the heater. (Our job was to haul these pieces of wood into the house and fill the wood box as needed!)
One of the projects as school was to put together a booklet showing many different kinds of leaves, labeling them, and telling about the tree and its uses and characteristics. Dad came in handy, as I gather many different kinds of leaves, and he taught me lessons about every tree-a learning experience I will never forget. (And I got a good grade on that project, you can be sure.)
As I was taught that trees are our living friends, my father told me that there are many different kinds of trees, just as there are many different kinds of people, and all are useful and needed. Each has its place in this world, and all have been created for a specific purpose. The tall Norway pines show majesty; the oak are hardy and leave us wonderful acorns each fall for renewing life; the silver-leafed maples and birches shimmer in the breeze; the birches with their white bark and dark green leaves give us wonderful shade; the lilac trees spread their beauty and scent in the spring; and the tamarack gives a golden Midas touch in the late fall. Each individual type of tree adds to our enjoyment of God’s beautiful gift of trees.