I’ve visited a lot of places around the world, but I’ve only really lived in a few places. I grew up in Redmond, Washington, the Redmond before Microsoft. The little town with one stop light on Leary Way and fields next to the Library where I would ride my BMX bike. I grew to love the green, tall trees, massive amounts of rain and the feeling of misty mornings and amazing sunsets. Rivers were all around me and the ocean never far away. The mountains either the Olympics to the west or the Cascades to the east were ever present. I honestly couldn’t imagine a better place to grow up.
I have also lived in Northeast Brazil for 2 years. There is some desert there, but mostly verdant forests, jungles, farm land and grass lands. There, it seemed like you couldn’t drop anything on the ground but that it would grow. Again I was close the the ocean and while I didn’t spend much time there, I got to know fishers and farmers and cattle ranchers all of whom helped me to see life more clearly. The green you experience in the equatorial areas in Brazil is a different green than I experienced back home in the Northwest. It was a brighter and more vivid green, not the dark, wet mossy green of the Pacific rain forests. It also amazed me how on the equator, there is no dusk. The sun sets so fast, you can turn your head and miss it. But with all the sun and rain and rivers, the tall trees of the jungle were always close by. The Mango trees and the huge Jaca trees seemed to always provide shade and something to look up to.
Imagine my surprise to move to southeastern Idaho, in the high desert plains. Comparatively few rivers, though there are lots of irrigation canals. Flat land, most of it lava rock. Harsh winters and an overall color I’d describe as, well, brown. Trees here are a green color, but with a muted brown to them. The ocean seems a distant dream and large bodies of water few and far between. While we drove to our new home for the first time, I commented to my wife, “Man, this is ugly!” Now, least I offend my fellow Idahoans, we are learning more about this new climate and the wonderful things to explore here, and I’m sure those of you who have braved the high desert plains will have much advice to add, but it’s still a shock and the contrast is very real.
Contrast often allows you to see things more clearly, and today, I saw very real beauty in this area, for the first time. And I saw it in the trees. What struck me is how solid, sturdy and unyielding these trees are. There are trees planted and nurtured by those living around houses or in the city, but the trees that captured my mind are those out on the plains. These trees are growing up amidst the driving sub-zero wind and snow of winter and withering heat of summer, from a bed of lava rock! It’s as if these trees are saying to Mother Nature, “Sure, I’ll grow here, right where you planted me.” And they do grow. Against all the odds for survival, they survive! They take in carbon dioxide, unusable by most around them and exhale precious oxygen into the high altitude air. In the search for water, they break up the rock and begin to make dirt for other, less sturdy plants who will benefit years after they have died. They bear the weight of heavy snows and heavier ice. They just seem to “take it” and keep living, untiringly and unheralded, these miracles of nature do their part to grow.
Perhaps my love of trees comes from my childhood growing up around them. Perhaps I took for granted the trees, water and green always around me. What ever it might be, for me, these lonely, windswept, dust covered but undaunted trees are inspiring.