U.S. National Arbor Day: Plant a tree and “be native to your place.”
Arbor Day is a holiday when groups and individuals are encouraged to plant and care for trees. It began in 1872 in Nebraska City, Neb., by J. Sterling Morton. It’s reported that one million trees were planted on that day in April in 1872.
There are many ways to celebrate Arbor Day. Celebrations can be public or privately recognized in your own garden.
Dedicate a forest, or a tree, or a flower bed in a park, and make it an occasion to talk about stewardship. Get a local nursery or garden center to hold an open house or field day. Review your own garden and see how you can improve it or expand it.
The broader meaning of this day incorporates one’s relationship with their place in terms of their relationship with their land. One’s “land” can be as simple as a flower pot on an apartment balcony or vegetable garden in the backyard. It’s not complicated. Celebrate your place.
For a more formalized approach to Arbor Day recognition visit their website for many ideas on how to volunteer and participate in your community.
Be native to your place
In 1955 there were what was called “the Beat school of American writers” that included, , and many others. One writer focused on the natural world, and his name was Gary Snyder. He was a little different because though considered a part of that generation, he was connected to the rhythms of nature and Zen Buddhism outside of Haight Ashbury in San Francisco. Living in a monastery for 12 years in Japan he developed his theory that Americans should settle in and become “native to their place.”
For me, this is what Arbor Day signifies. In Snyder’s darkly comic poem about Smokey the Bear which was followed by Turtle Island, for which he won the Pulitzer Prize, he celebrates back-to-the-land mentality. In his Smokey the Bear Sutra he suggests that the human race “ in that future American Era shall enter a new form: to cure the world of loveless knowledge that seeks with blind hunger; and mindless rage eating food that will not fill it.” He promises that by reciting this sutra once will amass countless merit and will help save the planet Earth from being a total oil slick, we will enter an age of harmony of man and nature, and we will tender love and caresses of men, women, and beasts, and we can sit happily under a pine tree.
One does not have to be Buddhist to experience being “native to your place.” Arbor Day is the national recognition of what Mr. Snyder was trying to tell us in his poem to celebrate and know your place in the natural world that is personal and knowable. You don’t have to do anything on a grand scale. Be sensitive and respond to how you can fit into nature, not how you need to change it to conform to your needs.
American Earth by Bill McKibben