To the tree in my best friend’s front yard, I met you when I was just five years old, back when “climbing tree” was not just a type of tree, but the best kind: thank you for supporting me in my youth, for always having a branch I could hold on to, for never letting me fall. I have no idea how tall you actually are, but back then, you were the tallest I could ever be. You let me reach new heights without fear, though maybe I should’ve been afraid. That’s what my mother said, anyway. Thanks to you, I’m still not afraid of heights. (I am afraid of falling, however.)
To the trees in woods behind my dad’s farm house, who I grew up with through elementary school, middle school, and high school and who I still visit to this day, thank you for always being there for me, for being my playground and my refuge. Thank you for teaching me how to blaze my own trail; from it, I learned to follow my own path. Thank you for encouraging my adventurous spirit, as I still explore the world the way I once explored you. Thank you for the memories with my father, as the ones spent with the both of you together are the best ones. And thank you for providing my family the resources it needed to keep warm through the Michigan winters. You took care of us even after you’d fallen to the ground, providers through and through.
To the Maple tree in my mother’s front yard, I miss the dramatic way your leaves would change color every autumn. We don’t have that where I’m at now. And I miss the way my mother would decorate you for Christmas every winter; it wasn’t really her, she’d have a neighbor boy come over and string the lights around because your branches were always too tall. But your Christmas spirit made her happy and spread across others like dominoes. I know you’ve got a new family now, and I hope it’s taking care of you and that crapapple tree I bought for my grandma after she passed away. I still think of you all the time and wonder how you’re doing.
To the trees in the Hoh Rainforest in Olympic National Park, I know I only met you briefly in passing and you probably don’t remember me, but you were beautiful, straight out of a movie or another world. I know I’d fallen for a lot of trees in my days — I fall for a new one just about every day — but that doesn’t make our encounter any less memorable. I’d never seen anything like you before, and I think I’ll remember you forever. I was on a road trip, an adult just passing through, but you made me feel like Christopher Robins and Leslie Burke and the other heroes of my youth. You proved to me once and for all that the seeing the world can be as much about seeing its trees, habitats and natural wonders as it can be about seeing its cities and its people.
To the other trees in my life, I love you, too. Sorry I can’t list you all. But you’re all beautiful and you’ve all been there for me when I’ve needed you. You’ve all lifted my spirits when I was feeling down, given me a space to breathe deeply and cleanly when I was feeling overwhelmed, and provided me with inspiration or clarity. You’ve all kept me cooler in the summer than I should have been and happier than I would have been without you. Every day, you show me how to live and how to be: Strong, sturdy, resilient, steady, giving, cooperative. So, today and every day, I thank you. Happy National Arbor Day!