Take a Tree, Leave a Tree

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This article is from Issue 92 of Woodcraft Magazine.

Rooting for the future

I love trees, inside and out. Call me an animist, but I’ve always found these living beings beautiful and soulful. High branches often called to me as a kid, and I found both solace and excitement clinging to them, swaying in the breeze high above the ground. I learned to recognize and trust strong branches, and to avoid those that weren’t ready for me yet. I gained strength and confidence from my efforts, and enjoyed a broader view of the world denied those unwilling or unable to perch. If you never climbed, you’ll just have to trust me that being a tree hugger on that level affords something special.

As I grew older and more ground-bound, I learned to appreciate trees from the inside. I don’t need to wax poetic about swirling wood grain imbued with luscious colors, or carry on about the value of a material that can be sawn, bent, turned, carved, and fashioned to satisfy a million purposes and pleasures. If you’re a woodworker, you already know what I’m talking about. And, as if all those benefits aren’t enough, these arboreal wonders also help clear the air for us, quite literally, and cool us in their shade on sunny days.

But there’s one aspect of trees that I don’t think we woodworkers appreciate enough: their renewability. Jewelers, machinists, and potters might love their material too, but they can’t cultivate precious stones, metals, and clay.

Planting a tree requires just a bit of time and maybe a few bucks. And it can even be a celebratory event—perhaps something done with a child, or in a loved one’s honor. Some years ago, I participated in a series of tree plantings sponsored by a woodworking guild. It involved members planting trees with elementary students on their school grounds. As someone who has long worked wood for both leisure and livelihood, it was gratifying to give back to the earth and to contribute in some small way to future generations.

I realize that I can never replace the padauk, teak, koa, merbau, and other exotics that I’ve used in my lifetime, so I guess I’ll have to compensate with domestic species. I’m not sure if the dozens of trees that I’ve rooted over the years have made up for all the wood I’ve consumed, so I’ll keep at it. If nothing else, I figure I’m planting a bit of help and a bit of hope for the future.

For more info on planting trees or helping organizations that do, visit:



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