On a walk with a famous naturalist, our group stopped under a white oak tree to rest. The ground beneath the massive oak was littered with hundreds, maybe thousands, of acorns. He told us to pick up the acorn closest to where we were sitting.
“Look closely at your acorn,” he directed. “What do you see?”
“Mine is bright green,” one person shared.
“Mine is brown and starting to decay,” another observed.
“I like the little cap on mine; it’s something a fairy would wear,” said the person next to me.
I noticed, “This one has a tiny hole where maybe some insect bored into it.”
Still another remarked, “Mine has been gnawed. A squirrel perhaps?”
The teacher stopped and said, “Look again.”
After a pause, he said in a hushed tone, “What I see is a miracle.”
“Just think,” he continued, “the tiny acorn you hold in your hand has the power to become this mighty tree. All the information needed to make this great living being—that’s lived at least 200 years—is contained in this tiny seed. This remarkable life form,” he said, gesturing to the towering oak above, “provides food and shelter for thousands of other beings. It constantly replenishes the soil with its falling leaves, converts sunlight to oxygen so that you and I can breathe, spreads its boughs so that we might find shade on hot days, reaches with its root to hold soil to protect us from flood, and inspires poets and dreamers. It came from a seed you can hold in your hand.”
He paused, again. “Many people pray to God for miracles,” he mused, “but for me the fact that we’ve been given this tiny acorn from which so much life can emerge – now that’s a miracle!”
On this Arbor Day, let’s consider their enduring gift. How can we ever capture the phenomenal diversity and wonder that is found in the world of trees? Trees are the oldest living things on earth (the quaking aspen, the bristlecone pine). Trees are the tallest living thing on earth (the redwood.) One could definitely argue that the mango is the sweetest living thing.
Trees also deeply enrich and even define a community’s sense of place. Imagine the dry hills of Sicily without the ancient olive trees that bend their gnarled fingers, and can you imagine Italian food without extra virgin olive oil? What would it be like to drive past the vast landscape of central Florida if you never got to smell orange blossoms in the spring? What would breakfast be like without freshly squeezed orange juice? The grand oaks and maples that explode with riotous color across the hills and valleys of Appalachia in the fall, and the Georgia pines that whistle in the summer winds make these places unique and give us our furniture, ships, homes, food, and so much more.
Today we celebrate Arbor Day. Don’t let this day go by without thanking a tree. Go ahead. Step outside and embrace a tree. Doesn’t matter what it is. A blossoming cherry tree in New York, a coconut palm in Brazil, a banyan in India, a gum tree in Australia. Whoever you find, give them a “thanks.” Celebrate, with a sense of wonder and gratitude, the marvelous gift that is right there in your neighborhood. Thank your tree for being there for you today. Offer your gratitude to the person or the critter that might have planted your tree so many years ago.
And, oh by the way, to truly honor your tree and this day, why not plant a tree as your gift to the planet for generations to come?
Celebrating Arbor Day with Delicious Recipes
To celebrate trees and Arbor Day, what better excuse do you have than to use the plentiful fruit that trees provide to make something delicious?
A savory appetizer, this recipe can also be doubled and served over rice or pasta. It features olives, olive oil, and walnuts, all from fruit-bearing trees.
Did you know that Chocolate is made from cacao, which comes from the seeds of the Theobroma cacao tree? (The Greek word Theobroma literally translates to “food of the gods.”) This species of tree thrives in tropical rainforests in Central and South America. (fieldmuseum.org). Try some of our fabulous chocolate recipes, including this Dark Chocolate Mousse.
This entrée uses cashews and lemons to make a healthy but decadent-tasting vegan main dish that will dazzle family and guests alike.
We can all be grateful for the many gifts that come from our beloved trees!
~ Jora Young, guest blogger for the Veggie Fest Team!
Jora Young worked in conservation and has been a meditation practitioner for four decades. Her conservation career focused on natural areas management, restoration and community conservation and she launched the multi-organizational, international Conservation Coaches Network. She co-authored The Ecology of Hope: Communities Collaborate for Sustainability. This book highlights ways to build ecologically, socially and economically sustainable communities. She shares her interest in meditation and the relationship between spirituality and ecology through lectures and workshops.