I grew up in the forests of north Georgia. I ran fast. I climbed trees. I swam in frigid water. I got muddy on purpose. Shoes were prisons for my feet, so I was barefoot at every opportunity. I wanted to be like Pocahontas. I wanted to run freely in woods dense with moss. I talked to trees, as I consider them wise, beautiful living creatures. My memory is faulty, but this happens to everyone as they get older, I assume. I hope I never forget the wild child I was at the age of two and beyond. There are memories we hold on to, whether they are happy or sad. I remember sitting in my car seat, pacifier in my mouth, watching a logging truck pass. I reacted with anger and sadness, saying, “Put those trees back RIGHT now.” I felt a hurt inside myself I had never known. Every morning, I weep for the destruction of trees everywhere. Trees are demolished for toilet paper, paper towels, houses, books. No one can say they haven’t benefited from the consumption of natural resources. I know that. Yet, every morning I shed tears for my faithful friends.
When I was in one of the several psychiatric hospitals I occupied, the patients could not go outside unless they had “behaved themselves.” I don’t understand how anyone could possibly expect a patient with severe mental illness to “behave” and earn the chance to go outside. While residing in this particular hospital for many months, I saw the sun for ten minutes. Ten minutes. Not ten minutes a day. A total of ten minutes in the entirety of a five month “visit.” I ached for the sun. I longed for the trees. I couldn’t even see out of the foggy glass windows, which was a tragedy. Once I transferred to the last hospital, my sister, Jessica, visited me often. She brought me peace when I had none. She braided my hair and painted my fingernails. Her presence alone gave me hope. We walked among the large trees, lying on the grass, stretching our legs. She would read to me beneath the branches.
I am passionate about trees. They are sources of oxygen we may desperately need in our future. “They” cut down trees and say that they will grow new ones. Even then, it will take years to repair the damage. Trees are in the way of building new housing developments, and storage facilities for people who have too much “stuff.” Trees are special and all are unique. They need to be cherished, treated like living organisms, rather than commercial gain. I pray there won’t come a day when a child asks, “What is a tree?”