I don’t think I truly appreciated those lines from Joyce Kilmer’s poem “Trees” until I moved to my rural property, which supports a variety of species, each beautiful in its own way.
For example, there are the beech trees, their grey bark reminiscent of elephant legs. The young beeches whose bronze leaves provide a wintertime counterpoint against the gleam of the snow. The birch whose white bark, in autumn, makes a pleasing contrast against the golden leaves of the surrounding maples. The poplars whose rustling leaves in the summer provide a backdrop to summertime musings on the back deck. The tall red pines whose crowns capture the glow of the setting sun. Or, my favourites: the graceful, branching oaks—lovely in any season but at their peak when clad in their blaze of autumn finery.
Once, on a canoe trip in Algonquin Park, we came across what looked like a broad path leading through the forest. On closer examination, the “path” proved to be the trunk of some massive forest giant that had crashed to the ground years—or more likely decades—ago. It must have been unthinkably huge in its time, and I wondered long it had presided over the area before ultimately surrendering to the forces of gravity. Thinking these thoughts reminded me how small and insignificant we humans really are in the grand scheme of things.
Of course, trees have a usefulness beyond aesthetics. The oaks I so like to admire provide acorns for the wildlife to dine on. The poplars seem to be one of the favourite springtime haunts of the local porcupine population. The deer enjoy the subtle and delicate flavor of the Spartan apple trees as they nibble the tips of the branches. The dead “snags” provide both home and sustenance for birds and mammals. And many a squirrel or chipmunk has been more than happy to find haven in a tree when my Border Collie Emma is in hot pursuit.
I once saw a science fiction moving in which the few remaining trees had become such a rarity that they were kept as specimens in an open-air museum. People would come, and look, and marvel at the fantastic and hard-to-believe notion that there were once vast forests covering the earth.
Hopefully, that scenario will remain in the realm of fiction. Trees are too wonderful a resource to squander.