Facts of life

February 4, 2016   ·   0 Comments

There are many aspects of life impacting on our lives.  Obviously the most significant pertain to essential requirements – air, water, energy, climate.  The natural world of vegetation in mankind’s forest habitat has a major role in each one of these, but there are many more, less recognized by society, similarly important to human life.

A hot topic currently is the cost of health care.  Mother in her senior years had to be moved to a seniors’ residence.  One feature of the home was a greenhouse where residents could enjoy the world of plants in the winter months.  Of even greater therapeutic value was their association with the forested grounds in the summer. 

A treed environment had much to do with old folks’ quality of life.  The same applies for those recovering from hospital situations, the world of nature having a significant therapeutic effect on the rate of recovery.  The natural world contributes a valuable component of school curriculums.  A cottage or park experience provides a much-needed break in busy office lives .

Aesthetic values should not be overlooked.  Fall colours are an important experience for many living in Canadian cities or for tourists visiting our country.  Christmas trees provide one means of bringing nature into the home even if for only a short time.  Maple syrup time is a fun time for many to spend in the great outdoors.  It is sad that an era has passed, one of scenic cedar rail fences across the landscape fashioned in different designs in diverse rural areas. The use of  stumps for the same purpose was another art form.  We have used such natural pieces in flower beds.

Nature provides many forms of ‘abstract’ art.  Two of our favorites from the tropics have been wooden ‘flowers’, of  Cedrella trees of central America and tiny ‘pineapples’, cones of Casuarina species.  The first is formed by large seeds drying out and splitting open, forming what appear to be petals of a flower.  The second is a relatively small cone which when opened has the appearance of the better known fruit.

It shouldn’t be forgotten that the human being is also part of the animal world and one able to cooperate with nature, crafting wood provided by trees to create cooperative art forms.  As many trees mature they develop dark heartwood and light outer wood.  With carving expertise, some artists have made use of the colour differences.  One prized piece from the Philippines is a piece of Raintree in the form of an eagle with a dark body with wingtips and head carved from the lighter outside wood.  Similarly, another piece, the product of the Indian carver near Tobermory, from a piece of Sumac, resembles an owl complete with dark eyes in light-coloured eye sockets.

Trees on a property should be considered as one of the ‘commons,’ for what they add to the overall complex of a neighbourhood.  The natural world doesn’t recognize man-made boundaries.  Birds and squirrels claim crowns of such vegetation as home, regardless of ownership.  Shade benefits adjacent homes and, for better or worse, debris such as dead leaves blows indiscriminately from one property to another.  Trees make ideal permanent memorials to folk who have passed on, a community attribute.  Funeral homes in Guelph offer this form of remembrance by utilizing the university arboretum for municipal recognition of past lives.

A major global, ecological concern is loss of plant and animal species.  One past project involved working with a landowner in Costa Rica who was striving to re-introduce many endangered tree species on his farm.  Similarly, a second experience was seeing the impact of reforesting areas of a mountain forest with indigenous tree species result in the return of animals which hadn’t been seen for over a generation.  The establishment of  forest in a savannah ecosystem in Columbia encouraged return of various rainforest plant species in the under-story and some of the original fauna, birds and small mammals.

For most of us trees are just trees.  Stewardship of resources provides many aspects of life beyond what many see out of their window.  There would be much missing in our lives without them.

By Doug Skeates

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