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Four Years at the Mount

Arbor Day Memories

Plant your trees

Sarah Muir
MSM Class of 2018

(4/2017) With the coming of Arbor Day, we are reminded of our responsibility to the earth. Through the act of planting trees, we endeavor to restore the balance in nature. Even with deforestation in decline, the damage left in its wake needs to be repaired to the best of our ability.

It is not a strictly modern holiday, but it in fact goes all the way back to 16th century Spain where the first recorded arbor festival took place in 1594 in MondoZedo. Still today, the place now known as Alameda de los Remedios is lined with the trees planted centuries ago. Several centuries after this festival, in 1805, a resurgence of interest in what would become known as Arbor Day occurred. In Villanueva de la Sierra, with the help of a priest, Arbor Day entered into the world again.

In 1872, 67 years later the Arbor Day tradition entered into the American consciousness. Beginning on April 10 in Nebraska City, Nebraska by Julius Sterling Morgon with the planting of one million trees, Arbor Day would spread like wildfire. It was globalized by Birdsey Northrop in 1883.

With the start of the 20th century came new efforts to conserve wildlife with the help of Theodore Roosevelt. His message of conservation was directed at businessmen in the lumber industries. A leading conservationist at the time, Major Israel McCreight, tried to focus the attention on educating the America’s youth on the issues facing the environment. Following his lead, and added pressure from the Chief of the United States Forest Service, Gifford Pinchot, Roosevelt began giving speeches to public school children on the importance of trees and forests in America.

People all across the world celebrate Arbor Day on different days of the year depending upon the cycle of the weather. Every year, millions of trees are planted, adding to the beauty of the earth simply because we have recognized the importance they play in our survival. Filtering air, providing to our food supply, and being an integral part of the ecosystem, trees are truly irreplaceable. Despite the attributes of trees that are of monumental importance, there are small goods that they provide that better our lives, even if we do not realize it in the moment.

I’ve mentioned quite a few times my alma mater is Visitation Academy which was a small, Roman Catholic, all-girls school that has been nestled in the heart of Frederick for the past 171 years. I have many fond memories of the school and one of them is that of a pear tree. I am astonished to find that while writing this, I am unsure whether the tree in question really was as big as I remember it to be or if the years of it being in my memory have caused it to grow. Fond memories have the tendency to sweeten the most ordinary objects and raise them to the height of the extraordinary. Truth was, that it was a pear tree, probably the same as all other pear trees, but to me it is the finest pear tree ever to have existed.

It was years ago, during the time in my life when summer seemed not as hot as it is now; full of chasing fireflies and art done in a chalk on sidewalk medium. Sometimes on weekends my sister and I would go with our father to my school. This may seem odd considering summertime is mostly students avoiding educational institutions like the plague, but we went anyways, not for anything school related, but for the pear tree. The nuns who were, at the time, unable to collect the fruit themselves and did not wish to see them going to waste, were more than happy to grant us access.

So armed with a bedsheet and an extended pair of shears we would set to work harvesting. My sister and I would hold out the bedsheet like a slightly lopsided trampoline and watch as my father carefully snipped away and the fruit would fall into the sun-bleached whiteness with a soft whish of fabric. When we had gathered what we could, we would partake in some of the spoils, delighting in the sweet, soft, slightly grainy fruit and enjoy the summer day with each other. After we gave the nuns their due share of the harvest, we would make our way back home, heavy laden with our sweet, filling treasure. Every year we would go back for more until one year we simply couldn’t.

The bit of me that is forever shrouded with nostalgia wishes to go back. Go back to the summer days with white sheets that was dappled with equal parts sunlight and shade of the pear tree. I have no idea how long it grew there, and I cannot for the life of me recall the year it was taken down, but I remember it with the rosy tinge that tends to come with childhood memories.

I feel as though, while we grow older we should leave something in our wake that will give new memories to the ones that follow behind us. We should continue to celebrate the holiday by adding on to the centuries old tradition – planting our trees and providing new, beautiful life to the earth. We should leave our mark by adding something good instead of taking it away. So, this Arbor Day, in the words of J.R.R. Tolkien, "plant your trees, watch them grow."

Read other articles by Sarah Muir