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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

Kids & Trees

Air Date: Week of

Many of us long for ways to re-connect to the natural world, and commentator Amy Benedict says no one has a better feel for natural pleasures than children. She offers this story about her daughter, and an experience that happened close to home.


CURWOOD: With so many hazards to avoid in the human-made world, many of us long for ways to reconnect with the natural one. We hike or bike or sometimes take expensive trips to distant wild places. But commentator Amy Benedict says no one has a better feel for natural pleasures than children.

BENEDICT: When my 5-year-old Isabella discovered that a section of a large oak tree had fallen into our neighborhood park, she was immediately drawn to the dark sturdy limbs and catacomb branches. On that first day, she climbed. On the second day, when no friends would join her in her tree, she perched high in the center and sang at the top of her lungs into the wind. Later, she stretched out like a cat, her arms wrapped around the largest limb. I was moved by the intimate connection she seemed to be allowing herself. After several moments, I looked over and Isabella had disappeared. The wind paused, and I heard her crying. She had rolled off.

On the third day, Isabella had a friend over who shares a similar passion for pretend in the out of doors. They packed a picnic basket and set up house in the tree. They rode its wild horse branches. They came and went from the tree like a true friend that would always be there. On the fourth day, disaster. Oh dear Bella, I said, they've come and cut up the tree. She bolted up the hill to see for herself, and as I feared, she was devastated. Sobbing, she sat amidst the rubble of logs and piled branches, head down, in deep mourning. This is awful, she cried.

She did not want to be consoled. She wanted to be left alone. She ran away. I let her go.

A bit later, Isabella asked me, why did they have to cut up the tree? And I explained how this park is different from the woods that we visit. How the nature here is kept tidy. The trees go here, the grass goes there, I explained. She got it. But still, she was sad.

Other children and friends arrived, and Isabella was able to be among them as they milled around, talking about the tree and the park workers who cut it up. Many echoed the sentiment that it was so awful, so sad.

Inspired by their energy and spirit, I pulled the logs into ring and suggested they have a ceremony to say goodbye to the tree. Immediately their eyes flashed, and several children rushed up the hill together and sat in the circle. Isabella spoke in a clear voice about the tree. Tree songs were sung. Tree stories were told. A little bag of cookies was brought out, broken, and shared 'round the circle. We acted out the story of that great fallen branch, from sapling to woodcutters.

Those wise children had found reverence, levity, and a simple healing. And my daughter Isabella? She looked euphoric.

CURWOOD: Writer Amy Benedict lives in Brookline, Massachusetts.



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