I visited my niece in Philadelphia last weekend. Wow! It was cold. A little scattered rain, but it was the wind funneling between the buildings that really cut into the weave of my fleece-lined jacket as we walked the half-mile to the BBQ joint where we ate a late lunch.
We passed a pipe from which steam poured out like fireplace smoke – and froze into an icicle on the grating mounted to keep critters and human fingers from touching the pipe.
But what really caught my attention was the lack of trees. Down one alley, a few blocks from her apartment, there were saplings lining one side of the street. I was amazed anyone would have planted them there because the sidewalk was so narrow that one had to turn almost sideways to pass between them and the building.
Except for that one alley, trees were not to be found. Nothing but buildings, sidewalks and paved streets – one huge impervious covering over the earth one trusted had once felt the footfalls of passing residents.
I was raised in the country. My folks owned a few acres of woodland in the middle of several thousand acres of woodland in a part of the state that was mostly trees and big rocks.
I get lonely without trees. They are good friends. Sturdy, bendy in a hard wind. I am just beginning to learn their language. It turns out, they really do talk with each other. They warn each other when dangers approaches; they can make themselves distasteful to some diners, but so far have not found a way to ward off a chainsaw.
I went away for a few years and returned to learn my childhood environs had been discovered by folks who were willing to drive two hours to get home to an idyllic place where deer and moose walked through apple orchards and families of loons raised their young on the pond.
Phosphorous became a problem in the pond, as houses and paved driveways replaced trees, and runoff that once was naturally filtered began racing unimpeded down the hills toward the lake.
The good news in my current home is phosphates and nitrates have been decreasing in Adams County streams. There is good evidence of the work many people have done to help farmers and residential lawn owners reduce their impacts on the water supply.
There also is evidence that trees deserve a large portion of the credit. Their roots keep land from drifting into the rivers during rain storms. Together the arboreal, guardians block many of the chemicals created by normal human life.
We need green space and trees the way a newspaper needs white space and headlines – to separate the otherwise run-on paragraphs of homes and schools and industries as we travel from hither to yon. We need those features to ease our eyes and minds, and in some instances to park the car and take a walk in the woods.
To soar with the hawks and eagles as they hunt the fields for dinner and show off to their land-bound dreamers. They draw my eye, and my camera, then direct them to myriad colors and growing things that are not vinyl siding and shingled roofs.
We must preserve some places large enough to support life, and prevent Adams County from becoming what thousands of folks have left to come here.
I often ask, when land is being preserved, “Is it accessible to the public?”
I do hope we preserve places with trees where a youngster – of any age – can wander and notice the birds and wade in clean water.
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