April – tee time and tree time

The trees of Queens Road West.
The trees of Queens Road West.

As spring blushes, April is tee time for golfers. Why can’t it also be tree time for all of us?

When I first came to Charlotte, the canopy of trees that lined Queens Road reminded me of where I grew up in Canada and made me feel at home.

Later, when I saw aerial photos that show how our tree cover has shrunk so drastically, I was alarmed. Trees are the crown of our Queen City. Yet many of them are old and fragile. Some studies show we could lose up to 45 percent of our tree canopy with new development.

I asked my friend, Hal, for years president of Callaway Gardens, Ga., why trees matter. “Because they provide oxygen, beauty, shelter for animals and birds,” he exclaimed. “God makes this world liveable with trees!”

Have you thought how important trees are in the Bible? In the original garden stood the tree of life, and the tree of knowing good and evil. Noah knew the great flood was over when a bird brought him a leaf from a tree. The Psalmist wrote poetically that the trees “clap their hands” in praise to the Creator. On Good Friday we Christians remembered that our Lord died on the wood of a tree. The Bible ends with the vision of a crystal river that runs through the new holy city, lined by the tree of life whose leaves are for the healing of the nations.

God has trusted us humans to care for creation, to be not only consumers but also custodians, caretakers. So this month, when we observe both Earth Day (April 22) and Arbor Day (April 24), is a good time to revalue our trees.

Often, on a Sunday morning before church, I have gone to a nearby creek with a copy of Wendell Berry’s “Timbered Choir,” his Sabbath poems. There I sit, read, pray. The trees around ground me, reminding me that I, like them, am a creature, part of this earth. They also lift me. Like a spire they point me up to my eternal home. They are indeed a timbered choir drawing me to worship the Creator. How I would miss them.

Martin Luther was asked what he would do if he knew Christ would return, and the present world end the next day. He replied, “Why, I would plant a tree today.” If we truly believe Christ will come and create a new world, then we should take care to preserve our trees now, as a sign of that great hope.

So, why not take part in a tree planting event this month? Or plant a tree in your own yard? It may even help you forget your allergies, or that basketball is over until the fall!

You might even hear a tree clap!

TreesCharlotte was created with a goal of planting 15,000 new trees each year. Their website shows planting events where you can volunteer this month.

Leighton Ford of Charlotte is a Presbyterian minister known internationally as preacher, writer and mentor.