Granted my morning walk was late, and the usual harmony of birds was long past. My craving for an over-easy egg and a large mug of coffee delayed my saunter. When I finally sallied this morning, I was astounded. The sun was strong and the air was warm. It was decidedly summer, not spring.
It seems comical to say this, but Reston has taught me to look around me. There is so much to see. There are so many trees on both sides of the trail that I appear to receive an honor guard every time I walk. I don’t know their names; when somebody tells me, I forget them. What will I do with a generic name anyway, when the trees are so unique? Each one has a unique bark, unusual roots, unmatched shape and a fanciful set of branches. Each is beautiful in its own way, and some are truly spectacular. Nobody loves poetry as much as I do, but I quite understand Joyce Kilmer when she says,
“I think I will never see
A poem as lovely as a tree.”
My brother, Pritish, was a swashbuckling reporter, and of all his remarkable interviews the one that sticks in my memory is the one he did of a quirky Bollywood celebrity. When asked about his closest friends, the star led Pritish to his garden and started introducing the trees by the eccentric but familiar names he had given them. You may not care for the kooky names he had conferred on the trees, but you cannot but be impressed by the tenderness with which he daily sang to the trees, his beloved buddies. I confess that I have begun to think of the giant firs near my home as fraternal too.
It was painful to find our arborist has decreed an order of execution on my neighbor’s tree. No doubt she has her reason: perhaps some arboreal disease or a perilous weakening of her roots. But it was a decision that hurt. It is a tree I have watched change through the seasons year after year. I have seen it grow taller and more luxuriant. Now to find that it had to go was not very pleasant.
I was saddened by the horrid spectacle. For the first time in my life I understood the enormity of a tragedy taking place around us. Trees are vital to us humans, for they not only create oxygen for us but also absorb deadly carbon monoxide from the environment. They reduce the need for air-conditioning and use of fossil fuels for energy. Thomas Crowther of Yale has painstakingly gathered statistics from different countries and estimated that there are three trillion trees on our planet. About 400 trees for each of us. If that sounds a lot, you better remember that since the start of civilization about 12,000 years ago we have cut down about half of the world’s trees. The planet that is our home is losing 15 billion trees every year.