My husband recently posted an ode to one of his favorite trees that sadly caught a root fungus and finally died after 4 years and was cut down slowly this winter.
He was not the only one moved by the loss of the tree. Neighbors of the park, visitors, and other movers also expressed their sadness over the loss of the tree.
It seems strange at first of mourning a tree, but this phenomenon of bonding with and becoming fond of a tree, or multiple trees, is very common, and very human. Trees provide humans food, shelter from the elements, landmarks during travel, and safety from (most) animals. But they also provide us a level of consistency and reliability in our world – that tree doesn’t go anywhere – while also marking the changing of the seasons and change over time. It provides enjoyment whether you are climbing the tree or just resting at its base. Being in or near nature, even a single tree, has profound, positive effects on our physical and mental states.
In Melbourne, Australia, a few years ago people started using the park system’s email alert system to express their fondness for some of their favorite trees.
At my daughter’s outdoor preschool the kids have slowly been naming the trees in the park during their daily hikes – grandfather tree, silly tree, spaceship tree, and others. These names help the kids orient where they are in the park, but they also represent a kinship with the tree, a familiarity and reliability that provides consistency and joy for the kids.
When a tree dies or is cut down, we feel its loss and we mourn. It is only human.