“The meaning of life is to plant a tree under whose shade you will never sit.” This is the sentence that first made me realize the bigger significance of planting trees – a seemingly small task that has a greater impact than I ever imagined. Danny, the incredibly witty forestry manager of Tree People, taught us the series of steps it takes to plant a tree: Choosing a location, digging a hole, massaging the roots out of the baby tree’s “root ball,” settling it into the earth, spreading its roots further into new soil, filling in the new earth, watering it with four buckets, setting up supportive stakes to keep it from falling, and finally, the naming ceremony. So much goes into this process to make sure that the tree is healthy, secure, and might stand a chance against LA’s lack of rain from March to September. Not to mention the air pollution.
Aside from the direct service of planting trees, we’re creating a lasting investment in the community. I hope that the trees I have planted will provide a refreshing shelter from the hot California sun for someone who needs to rest. I hope that my trees (their names are Treealah, Big Easy, and Jazzy the Love Tree) offer happiness to a young child who wants to dig for bugs around its roots. I hope someone climbs my trees one day.
I hope someone finds my tree and sits beneath it, and daydreams for a while.
In Judaism, we talk about the “tree of life” pretty often, and until now, I haven’t truly appreciated the life force of a tree. From sapling to mighty oak, they grow slowly but surely, ring by ring. Their branches reach up to the heavens and their roots dig down deep for nourishment. Similarly, humans look up to the sky for answers and burrow into their past to find out who they are. As humans, we like to branch out yet stay grounded. My biggest hope for the rest of this week is to continue to enjoy the satisfying work, get some more dirt under my fingernails, and appreciate the trees of life that we are bringing into the world. It would be nice to return to Griffith Park one day and sit under the shade of the trees I’ve planted, but that’s not the point. As long as others find joy and shade under the canopy of leaves reaching upwards, I’ll be proud.