I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.
A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the sweet earth’s flowing breast;
A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;
A tree that may in summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;
Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.
Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.
–Trees, by Joyce Kilmer
The poet Joyce Kilmer knew the importance of trees when he wrote this lyric poem in 1913. His words speak about trees as evidence of God’s creation personified. Arbor Day, the celebration of trees, is coming on April 28, 2017. It is a day, established by J. Sterling Morton, to recognize the importance of trees. Morton moved from his hometown of Detroit, Michigan in the mid 1800s to Nebraska where he found a landscape lacking trees. He was a lover of nature and also recognized the value of trees for conservation and industry. He mobilized the citizens of the Nebraska Territory to plant trees, and in 1872 the first Arbor Day was established. Over the years, The Arbor Foundation has continued to fulfill Morton’s mission to propagate trees. He is remembered for the quote, “Each generation takes the earth as trustees.”
Today, research studies are pointing to another reason to value trees. Studies link the presence of trees with human health. Specifically, researchers found that people experienced more deaths from heart disease and respiratory disease when they lived in areas where trees had disappeared.
“There’s a natural tendency to see our findings and conclude that, surely, the higher mortality rates are because of some confounding variable, like income or education, and not the loss of trees,” Geoffrey Donovan, a research forester at the Pacific Northwest Research Station of the U.S. Forest Service, said in a statement. “But we saw the same pattern repeated over and over in counties with very different demographic makeups.”
The study, which is published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, involved data from 1,296 counties spread over 15 states. Researchers examined how many deaths from heart and respiratory disease occurred over 18 years. The researchers found an association between areas that had been affected by the emerald ash borer beetle—which kills trees, leaving areas treeless—and 15,000 more deaths from heart disease and 6,000 more deaths from respiratory disease.
“This finding adds to the growing evidence that the natural environment provides major public health benefits,” researchers wrote in the study. You can read more about these studies and how trees may affect good health by reading “Growing Quality of Life: Urban Trees, Birth Weight, and Crime” by John Kirkland and Geoffrey Donovan on the U.S. Forest Website, http://www.fs.fed.us/.
Also of note is the author Matthew Silverstone who has written a book entitled “Blinded By Science,” touting evidence confirming the healthful benefits of trees including the effects they have on various issues such as depression, concentration levels, and even the ability to alleviate headaches. The book cites a number of studies that show the connection between good mental health and well-being in locations where there is regular interaction with trees. On the British website NatureAndHealth.com, there are six suggestions that you can do this month to increase your time spent with trees and possibly experience better health:
1. Bring plants into your office space or where you work.
2. When going for walks, choose paths where you will be walking through parks or nature with trees.
3. Bring your friends and family to treed areas more often when you go outside or play with the kids.
4. Plant a garden and be amongst nature. You connect with your food and the earth.
5. Plant a tree in your own yard or even in an area you feel could use a tree!
6. Make time to be amongst trees daily or every other day. Don’t be afraid to jump right in and hug the tree!
Otterbein Portage Valley Senior Lifestyle Community is nestled next to a 50-acre woods with marked walking trails. Trees were also planted on the campus, and the villa homes were built over the past 35 years. Many trees have been planted by families as memorials to loved ones. We are a community that believes in the power of healing through God’s creation. Joyce Kilmer was right: “I think that I shall never see a poem as lovely as a tree”! Celebrate Arbor Day 2017 by planting a lovely tree!❦