I worked on my wood again today. Not out of pleasure, or leisure, or obligation. I worked on my wood today because I needed to.
I needed to feel the saw in my hands, watch the wood melt into dust beneath the blade and fall gently to the ground. I needed to work with the wind whipping up before the rain and the scent of the cherry blossoms hanging heavy in the air.
It was one of those days and I needed the respite and comfort and hope of the wood.
The two apple trees that I planted last year, all five feet or so of them, were blossoming. Perhaps this is the year they will begin to bear fruit.
I cut 18” logs from a six-inch diameter fresh pine branch with George’s bucksaw. That was the biggest round of wood I have yet attempted to cut. And because it was still live and sappy, it was hard. It was only my mood that allowed me to even try, and my tensed up determination that allowed me to succeed. I might not be able to do it again tomorrow.
Amid this day I had a conversation with a wise woman who loves gardening and loves trees. While many people speak of environmental justice in terms of the inequitable placement of power plants, the disruptive and dislocating location of train tracks, of food deserts, lead paint, energy costs as percent of household income, and the like, this wise woman also spoke of environmental justice in terms of access to nature.
Why is it that the privileged, those who can afford to own property (she owns five acres) and those who are able to live near forested parks and well-tended gardens are the only ones who can regularly, casually, enjoy the gifts of nature? Why are there streets without trees and roads that pave over and bury once visible, audible, enjoyable streams?
How can we expect people to care about nature if they feel alienated from it, hardly know it? How can they enjoy the restorative gifts of nature if they don’t have access to it? How can they manage their anger, frustration, sadness, loneliness, annoyance, you-name-it, without it?
I am working with a nascent organization devoted to re-treeing Baltimore City. Most people would imagine that is a matter of aesthetics, like Lady Bird Johnson’s effort to beautify America. And of course, in one way, it is. Trees are beautiful and beauty lifts the human spirit.
But trees offer much more than beauty. They offer relief, refuge, escape from the human world. They offer visions of strength, endurance, fortitude, even defiance. They offer, in a word, healing. And everyone deserves that.