Trees—on Joyce Kilmer’s Day

Trees, trees, and more trees
“Trees, trees and more trees,” was Golden Gate Park Supervisor John McLaren’s motto when he helped design the shaded, pleasant, walkable, and popular Lithia Park in Ashland, Oregon. Trees, we know (besides making our neighborhoods cooler and more pleasant), are part of the solution to the climate crisis.

Only God can make a tree
Alfred Joyce Kilmer, who was killed by a sniper’s bullet on 30 July 1918 at the Second Battle of the Marne, penned in his poem “Trees” that “only God can make a tree.”

I think that I shall never see

a poem as lovely as a tree.

A tree whose hungry mouth is prest

Against the Earth’s sweet flowering breast;

A tree that looks at God all day,

And lifts her leafy arms to pray.

A tree that may in Summer wear

A nest of robins in her hair;

Upon whose bosom snow has lain;

Who intimately lives with rain.

Poems are made by fools like me,

But only God can make a tree.

            — Joyce Kilmer

Mario Lanza sings “Trees.” (accessed 26 July 2022)

Paul Robeson sings “Trees.” (accessed 26 July 2022)

Poem “The Forest for the Trees” by Rena Priest (Washington State Poet Laureate), posted 6 Aug. 2021 to the humanities Washington blog at 
(accessed 26 July 2022)

Uncle Sam’s help
“Any fool can destroy trees. They cannot run away; and if they could, they would still be destroyed — chased and hunted down as long as fun or a dollar could be got out of their bark hides, branching horns, or magnificent bole backbones. Few that fell trees plant them [that has changed from Muir’s day, with regulations now (the Uncle Sam referred to below) that require timber companies to replant cleared land]; nor would planting avail much towards getting back anything like the noble primeval forests. … It took more than three thousand years to make some of the trees in these Western woods — trees that are still standing in perfect strength and beauty, waving and singing in the mighty forests of the Sierra. Through all the wonderful, eventful centuries … God has cared for these trees, saved them from drought, disease, avalanches, and a thousand straining, leveling tempests and floods; but he cannot save them from fools — only Uncle Sam can do that.”
⸺ John Muir, Our National Parks (1901), chapter 10.

A tale of two forests: the inner Olympics (old growth there) vice the outer Olympics (old growth gone)
Humans can destroy in decades what God grew over millennia. National Park designation for the inner Olympics and an accompanying ring of surrounding lowlands preserved the big-tree forest there, but the old-growth trees outside the park were cut down. As Kirk and Franklin state in their book The Olympic Rain Forest: “On national forest and commercial lands, extensive virgin forest lasted until the 1980s—one fleeting century, three human generations, for an ecosystem that developed five thousand years ago.”
     — Ruth Kirk and Jerry Franklin, The Olympic Rain Forest, 119.

That said, I’m grateful to the people who set aside the Olympic National Park, and the ones who administer it today, so that I and many others can walk in and enjoy that tall old growth.     MRM

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