I love the thick green of forest leaves in late spring and summer. Somehow, it feels as though the very air is thicker with life than it is in the barren, cold winter; birds hop along branches, and squirrels scurry up tree trunks to hide in the foliage. The delicate beauty of each thin leaf combines with its brethren to make a soft silhouette of shade on the grass, promising rest and relaxation.
Maybe it’s my inner hippie coming out, but forests have always felt sheltering to me. It surprised me to learn, while I was studying for my English major in college, that in literature, forests have often been used as the sites for sorcery and evil being afoot, such as in Young Goodman Brown. I guess it’s because my house is planted square in the middle of a large forest that I’ve always viewed forests as places of rest and safety. The screen of leaves, tree branches, and trunks fully obscures my home from the road, generally keeping us safe from robbers and trespassers. Sinuous branches arching over parts of the driveway and house may present a slight danger during ice storms, but for much of the year, they provide welcome respite for all sorts of little animals (and tired humans returning from shopping trips!).
I’m the kind of person who will drive down the road, sight a particularly beautifully-shaped tree, and stop and take a picture of it; I’ll do the same for lovely vistas of foliage allowing just hints of sunlight to pierce through to the ground. What I love most is that trees and forests aren’t just beautiful, but useful–when I’m taking refuge from the sun under a pretty tree, it feels sometimes like I’m being watched over and protected. Other people seem to think the same thing, albeit unconsciously; when looking for a parking spot in the summer, the spots with trees shading them are usually taken first!
Even though trees might besmirch our cars with their sap, overly shade our front lawns, or even threaten our houses when they die and begin to lean, I still think they provide a restful counterpoint to human life. You can’t just stop and watch a tree grow, and yet they are in constant cycles of growth, as their rings tell us. They are perpetually still and yet vibrantly alive in the same moment, like a person in meditation. We spend our days rushing around for sustenance and shelter and comfort; they derive their sustenance and comfort from the ground underneath, and provide us with a little of the same.