A Few Random Thoughts About Trees for Arbor Day and Spring

There’s something about trees that makes me feel good without thinking. I might believe I’m as low as the soles of my shoes, worrying about car payments, anxious over diplomatic relations with North Korea, fuming about my flopped soufflé, but let me walk by a spruce, aspen, maple or oak, and that mood starts to dissipate. The day seems sunnier, the air, fresher.

Doesn’t matter the season. Every season brings its own joys and discoveries. Last winter a frost would hit, and leafless trees would be iced with the most delicate coating of crystals. In spring tiny green buds push through the protective scales as if sampling the climate to decide if the temperature warrants further growth. Trees seem to pulse with life itself.

Arbor Day is coming up, the last Friday in April in most states. I remember planting a sapling with great ceremony with my class in elementary school, as well as sporadic similar activities over the years hosted by community groups. Why did we bother? When with typical human irrationality, for centuries we’ve cut down and decimated trees by the millions. England, Scotland, and Ireland used to be covered with forests, but mankind happily thwacked its way down to the earth to use the resources for more urgent needs.

Now Arbor Day, as well as additional activities like the Tree City USA program, are trying to make amends by encouraging natural tree and plant life in this country. However, this is not a global trend. A report from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations says the single largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in Latin America and the Caribbean is the conversion of forests to other land uses, such as agriculture. In Brazil alone, 78 million acres of rainforest are lost every year! More than 20 percent of the Amazon rainforest is already gone. Perhaps they need a huge horde of elementary school students swarming into the region to plant seedlings.

Unfortunately, do-gooders’ enthusiasm may outstrip scientific knowledge. Planting the wrong type of tree may do more harm than good if we’re discussing global warming. The New York Times reports using conifers where broad-leafed once flourished might increase global warming, while in colder regions, trees absorb more sun heat, again raising ground temperature.

We can’t win, at least until we learn there are no simple answers to complex problems, no matter what the issue. Until we can figure out the solutions for the dilemma of trees and global warming, we can treasure the trees currently in our lives. Parks, thoroughfares, pots, farms, mountains, forests–trees are everywhere. Let’s take note by celebrating the low-key, simple, friendly observance that’s Arbor Day.


How much is that doggie bag in the window, and does using it label me as cheap or old?

Is using zip-locked bags at restaurants a sign of growing old? i asked myself this the other day in a luncheon meeting attended in the main by seniors or mature adults as they’re now called by some. At the end of the meal, several opened their purses and pulled out their own plastic sacks for leftovers, and i recalled times I’d seen my older relatives do the same. Indeed, my father at about age 70 raided the centerpiece on the buffet line at a steakhouse, claiming, “Oh, they want you to take the whole fruits and vegetables.”

As a self-proclaimed environmentalist of many years standing, I’m torn by this action. What if they favor bringing their own containers? That’s more acceptable. Obviously tossing some Tupperware Is a greater emotional challenge than ridding yourself of a flimsy sack. Or is my problem the association of baggies with aging? i have sufficient signs of my status, what with my gray hair and creaking knees, shortened temper, and equally shortened height. I don’t need anyone, or myself, using my salvage of leftovers as an additional indicator of my status.

In most of this country, it’s acceptable to pack and remove remaining food from your restaurant meal. Not always the case over the globe. Appears that Europe is exempt from this habit in the main, while Asians cheerfully carry nibblies out. However there are exemptions even here. The idea of toting goodies after a private dinner is widely disputed in advice columns, and I don’t think it’s ever been resolved. Should you, as the hostess, offer leftovers to guests, particularly if they potlucked the original dish in? Or do you, as hostess, deserve all the leftovers because you took the time and trouble to organize the party?

From experience I can tell you salvaging food after an event is not necessarily a happy situation, regardless of the money you think you’re saving on your food budget. Ask my husband who suffered through approximately ten dinners of leftover turkey, starting with sandwiches through tetrazzini and on to several days of turkey soup disguised as stew, then stroop, finally thin soup.

Certainly guests should ask, or, better yet, wait for the hostess to offer before knocking others out of the way to secret the remaining prime desserts in your tote made of any kind of material. Do you want to save a few pennies and, at the same time, lose a friendship?

Then there are business functions. The best advice is never to save remnants from these functions. Makes you appear desperate and cheap, two conditions to avoid if you’re hoping to impress bosses or clients.

I’ve strayed far afield from my original hypothesis—that carrying zip-locked plastic bags marks you as aging. Maybe my sensitivity to the potential of personality characteristics to adversely set me apart from the general population is too great. I need to decide if my over-riding concern is money, environmentalism, or stereotypes. I’ll ponder that question while I snack on some cheese tidbits I rescued from yesterday’s meal out with neighbors.

It’s Not Nice to Fool (Around With) Mother Nature, or Carl Hiassen’s Vindication

Sometimes it seems this world has lots of mean people—greedy, self-centered, and unthinking. They’re amassing money, ignoring real needs, and destroying the environment.

It’s even easier to find bad guys in Florida, at least according to author Carl Hiassen, who’s been beating on this drum for decades.  Usually categorized as a mystery writer, Hiassen is truly a social satiricist, attacking the profiteers, idiots and bad guys who value the all-mighty dollar at the cost of the natural world and common decency.

Many of his plot points seem impossible—rodents with tongues dyed blue, an Orange Bowl Queen kidnapped by a local terrorist cell, an evil developer so obsessed with Barbie he remakes his flings into doubles.

Lo and behold here comes real life to prove anything is possible, even Hiassen’s visions.  Recently a sinkhole near Disney World gobbled up a resort with no warning. Slowly, slowly the villas, elevator shaft and walkways cracked and shattered, then sank into the ground.  Fortunately all visitors and staff were evacuated with no injuries.

I have to wonder if Mother Nature is finally flexing her muscles to take revenge.  In Hiaasen’s books, humankind has so brutalized the native flora and fauna that any benevolent balance seems impossible.  Even the folks charged with creating and enforcing laws to protect, not only the environment but also people, gleefully ignore, cheat, and steal to cover their own assets and asses.

An official with the USGS said humans are accelerating the problem of “sinkhole alley.”  Development creates surfaces off which water must run off, then go underground to cut through weak rock and exacerbate the problem.

Is Hiaasen an extremist or a prophet?  An hysteric or a pragmatist?  We may be getting a response from Mother Nature.