Saturday, March 10, 2012

Planting The Future

“One generation plants the trees, the next gets the shade.”
Chinese proverb 
Sequoia sempervirens, the coastal Redwood tree, can live up to 1800 years and grow as tall as 380 feet (200 feet in Oregon).  Their natural range goes north as far as the southern Oregon coast. They like the warm coastal fog of California and lots of rain.  And, one of the most spiritual experiences in the world is to hike through the groves of giant redwoods in the Redwoods National Park on a warm, foggy day, in the midst of ancient trees.  
I’ve got a few of them growing here, but I wanted some more.  Part of my soul lives in the giant coastal redwoods of California and I’ve nearly always had a redwood tree growing on my land.  I like the promise of starting a forest of giant trees that will live for hundreds, maybe several thousand years.
Today, I planted three more.  They won’t get to “giant size” by the time I leave this Earth, but I’ll know they are growing, taking root here, and heading skyward with their lacy leaves and thick red bark.    
I’ve always planted trees.  When I was a little kid, my folks had a cabin on 30 acres in what we then called the Tillamook Burn.  Several forest fires had raged through the area in the 1930s to the 1950s, turning the forest into a collection of burned snags and ferns.  So, in the late 1950s, my dad and I would go out with bundles of little Douglas fir seedlings, and our Pulaski (a combination axe and tree planting blade) and plant them on the hills and ridge above the cabin.  The deer ate a lot of them, but enough survived, so that when I drive by the place, I can see a nice forest there.  I like the idea that I had something to do with that.
When I was seven, my dad and I planted a few redwoods on the place we moved to.  Those trees are still there today, about sixty to eighty feet high, doing well, and getting pretty big.  And, the little guys I planted today, well, they are on their way, and will soon be spurting new growth towards the sky.  The fog will collect on their leaves, and big beads of wet will drop down to the earth at their roots.  And, someday, they might be the giant redwoods of the neighborhood.  They will be happy, making their home here, century after century, providing some shade, and peace and serenity to the generations that will come after me.
A few years ago, a friend gave me some little Monterey Cypress trees.  I wasn’t sure they would make it here, too cold and wet, I thought.  But, I babied them along, repotting them, keeping them watered in the summer, and they’ve done well.  They have nice healthy buds for this year’s growth, and big, thick root systems.  Today, I planted them, too.  They’ll be a good addition to the groves of trees I’ve been tending.
The other cypress trees I’ve planted here, Leyland, are doing well, too.  I read up on them today, learning that they are a cross between Nootka (or Alaskan) Cypress and Monterey Cypress.  In their native habitats, they didn’t get to crossbreed, but an English botanist experimented with them in the late 1800s, and they do well in moderate coastal climates.  We’re a bit of Alaska and a bit of California here, which explains why the cypress like it here.  
The rains are moving back in now. The little bit of sunshine I had between storms, which was just enough to grab my shovel and do my planting, is gone now. But, my trees are there, in the rich dark soil, the southwesterly breeze of the coming storm dancing in their needles.  They are ready to put down roots and make this place their home.

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