You don’t have to be a “tree hugger” to appreciate the beauty of a tree. Trees have been our partners on this Earth since humankind began. We live amidst them, eat their fruit, and use their flesh for many practical and industrial purposes. Some trees even gain their own special significance within a community; for example, the massive Oak tree along the trail at Genesee Valley Park. That tree is so significant that when it was cracked in half during a storm several years ago, the city couldn’t bring itself to cut it up and remove it, and rather just removed any limbs blocking the bike path (U of R “Tree of Life” tribute). So, why plant a tree? Rather than bombard you with practical or scientific reasons (there are many), let’s do a little exercise in imagination to answer the question:

Imagine it is early spring. The winter chill hasn’t quite left the air, but the Sun is hanging around a little longer each day. Little by little, on branches that were completely bare just a day before, buds appear as if by magic. They start to fill the trees and announce that the danger of winter has finally left, and birds start to sing from the branches. We can finally relax.

Now imagine you are a child. You find a grove of trees one summer, and it becomes your castle. You defend it from dragons, warlocks, and giants, climbing its branches to get a better view of your foes. You bring your sweetheart to your special grove, and carve your names into the trunk of one of the young trees, preserving your love for a lifetime. Then, in fall the trees shower you with their helicopters- throwing confetti at your triumphs of childhood joy. They treat you to a wondrous display of reds and golds, a last hurrah before hunkering down for winter.

When winter comes, the deciduous trees remain, and even without leaves remind us that winter doesn’t last forever. The evergreens keep their foliage and stand as sentries against the cold. Animals brave enough to stay look to them for refuge and are welcomed with open arms. The tall Spruce in the center of town is bedazzled with colored lights, and casts a warm glow against the bitter wind, giving us hope for warmer days, and a cause to celebrate the year.

Now imagine a world with no trees.